1966 And All That... Again?
Updated: Jul 15
England on the Verge of History?
YouTube video: England v West Germany: 1966 World Cup Final | British Pathé
The Men in Red Shirts
Wembley Stadium, London, 30 July, 1966. England's extra-time 4-2 victory against West Germany in the FIFA World Cup Final was a defining moment for English sport. It put the English football team on top of the world, in their soon-to-be-famous red replacement shirts, in front of a 97,000 stadium crowd and a record 32.3 million TV audience.
The victory seemed to cement England's place as the cultural centre of the world. The swinging 60s and Beatlemania, replacing the grey post-war years of rationing and economic deprivation, and the fashion verve of Twiggy and Carnaby Street, made capital city, London, the place to be.
Hat-trick scorer Geoff Hurst, an All-Star team of football totems like the Charlton brothers and goalkeeper Gordan Banks, and manager Alf Ramsay, would soon be sprinkled with knighthoods by the Queen and fêted for the rest of their lives by a grateful nation.
Badge of Service
Picture: Frank Parker's 1966 FIFA World Cup Final Steward's Medal / Credit: David Parker
David Parker, the Hub's neighbour, has a treasured heirloom from that day in 1966. In his spare time, David's father Frank Parker was a linesman at Conference League level. Frank successfully applied to be a steward at the World Cup Final and saw his countrymen win the final and hoist the Jules Rimet Cup Trophy up close.
Frank received a steward's medal for his service that day. The medal has passed on to David who graciously showed it to The Hub to be photographed for this blog. The medal is emblematic of the many ordinary men and women across the country who contributed to the successful hosting of the biggest football tournament in the world.
Georgina Parker is David's wife. By coincidence, Georgina's father Omero Angelucci was a spectator at Wembley on World Cup Final Day in July 1966. At the time Omero was running the family coffee business, A. Angelucci Coffee Specialists, set up by his father Alfredo in Soho in 1929.
A few doors down from the famous Bar Italia on Frith Street, the shop had an illustrious history as a Soho favourite, providing coffee to famous names for many decades. Mark Knopfler personally asked the family for the use of its name in the opening line "Stepping out to Angelucci's for my coffee beans." of the song Wild West End from 1978 album, Dire Straits.
Georgina has recently enhanced the family business with a new online offering Angelucci Coffee providing coffee beans, the family's iconic Mokital blend of ground coffee and Angelucci coffee cups.
Picture: 1966 World Cup stamps / Credit: Steve Barker
Of course, all sorts of paraphernalia accrues around a major event like a World Cup Final victory. Including stamps. Turns out rock'n'roller Steve Barker, The Hub's correspondent on the More Paddy's Day Music blog, and the creative force behind band Red Dog, was a stamp collector. Back in the day.
Says Steve "Red Dog" Barker: "I was ten when I was a stamp collector. Somehow I obtained hundreds of stamps mainly from Britain, although some from all over the world. I still have the stamps and they do bring back some memories.
Pre email and fax, everything went by post and needed a stamp. Stamps were often created to commemorate national or significant events, like the football World Cup in England in 1966.
My collection holds two different stamps commemorating the event.
A 4d and a 6d – this is pre-decimal currency when a pound was 20s (shillings) and a shilling was 12d (pence). The stamps were issued before the tournament started.
An updated version of the 4d was issued with an “ENGLAND WINNERS” banner legend after England won the championship.
These stamps were highly collectable at the time, with a used (stamped) version of the England Winners version being the most highly prized."
It's Not Coming Home
YouTube video: Three Lions (Football's Coming Home) (Official Video)
The solo victory for the "home" of football. The failure to surpass old enemy Germany again at major finals, or even to reach another final, for over a half century. To build a pattern of success comparable to leading "Johnny-Come-Lately" world football nations Samba Kings Brazil, Perennial Finalists Italy and Germany, painfully losing to the old enemy on penalties in semi-finals.
Led England to turn in on itself with each passing failure. The ritual ridicule and humiliation by a parasitic tabloid press of good men like well-intentioned Graham Taylor. And most damningly, an inspirational world football figure like Bobby Robson. Remains a stain on the national conscience, for the temerity of not achieving the heights of '66 And All That.
YouTube video: Official Trailer - Bobby Robson - More Than A Manager
England players visibly froze in the glare of the unforgiving scrutiny, reserving their best performances for club football. Especially with the advent of the riches to be had from the new Premier League. Successive "Golden Generations" (World Cup 1990 Lineker, Gazza, Platt; Euro '96 Gazza, Shearer, Sheringham; World Cup 2010 Beckham, Lampard, Gerard et al) failed to achieve their vaunted potential. Usually by losing to Germany in penalties.
And so a weary public started to turn their gaze away. No longer watching their national team as a pleasure, but as an unpleasant interruption to club football. The previous arrogance of expected victory replaced by a hard-to-bear anticipation of failure. Even wearing the iconic red shirt at tournament time became too painfully ironic. For some.
An Unlikely Hero
YouTube video: EURO 96 highlights: England v Germany the full penalty shootout / Credit: UEFA
The "30 years of hurt" in the David Baddiel, The Lighting Seeds, Frank Skinner Euro '96 anthem It's Coming Home has lasted another 25 years. But 29 June 2021 brought England's first tournament victory against Germany since 1966 with a 2-0 victory in the Euro 2020 Round of 16. A thrilling Semi-Final extra-time 2-1 victory over a dogged Denmark leaves England on the verge of an unexpected second tournament win.
Unassuming manager Gareth Southgate is the team's unlikely talisman. Southgate has carefully built on a successful 2018 World Cup semi-final campaign to steer his team to a first major final in 55 years. A blend of understated values, promoting promising youth players and staying steadfast through the tricky controversy of the "taking the knee" protests has been his calling card.
But of course, who could forget, it was Southgate's missed penalty against Germany in the semi-final of Euro '96 that brought another promising campaign to a bitter end. Southgate has admitted to being haunted by that penalty miss. So it will be some story if he is the manager to deliver the next major trophy to his country this evening at Wembley. Against favourites Italy.
Being a neutral Irish man (a notion perhaps not fully understood immediately East of the Irish Sea) The Hub dispassionately, but eagerly, awaits the match and the outcome. Southgate has set a fine example and deserves the plaudits that come his way.
In the Parker household, English-born Georgina's Italian heritage gives the couple a consolation prize should England lose. The Hub imagines Frank Parker and Omero Angelucci will be watching together and celebrating their offspring, whatever the outcome. Possibly over a cup of Angelucci coffee!
Post Script: After The Game
YouTube video: Football's Coming Home - Casablanca
Congratulations Italy, unlucky England.
That was a brutal way to end an enthralling contest. Penalties after extra time is football's equivalent of the gladiatorial do or die. The exhausted participants compelled to summon one last effort, man to man, for the entertainment of the watching crowd and TV audience. The sacrificial lamb of the final failed penalty taker, alone in the middle of the arena. The instant jubilation of the victors, the dejection of the losers. Visceral entertainment.
Neither Italy nor England excelled in the penalty arena. Look at the Euro '96 Germany v England Semi-Finals penalty shoot out in the video above. The Germans provide a master class in nodding at the ref, head down and smashing the ball into the net. Even Gareth Southgate's final, deciding effort was meh rather than what-the-f... ?! But...
To the victor the spoils. To the losers the pain. For England, the painful-to-watch distress of the failed penalty takers. Gareth Southgate attempting to console 19-year-old Bukayo Saka in his arms. Gracefully congratulating the Italian manager, Roberto Mancini. An Italian player delivering the oven-baked riff: "Football's coming Rome!" to camera. The instant sharing of multiple, ironic "It's Coming Home" videos.
The inevitable social media hounding of England's young trio of unsuccessful penalty takers: Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. Who deserve much better. All three obscenely, racially abused by their own "fans". The ugly side of the "beautiful game".
Hopefully, going forward, social media companies will find their moral compass. And not provide a platform for anonymous abuse. Or politicians and regulators will perform their public duty and enforce the same standards to online publications as print publications.
And football "fans" will find more constructive outlets for their frustrations.
Post Post Script: A new "Age of Accountability" for Social Media?
The Hub sent this article to Chris Grayling, his local MP, and asked how Parliament intends to apply consistent standards to print and online publications.
Mr Grayling pointed towards the UK government's proposed new regulations on social media, modestly headlined as: UK leads the way in 'age of accountability' for social media.
The bullet points of these proposals are:
New rules to be introduced for tech firms that allow users to post their own content or interact
Firms failing to protect people face fines of up to ten per cent of turnover or the blocking of their sites and the government will reserve the power for senior managers to be held liable
Popular platforms to be held responsible for tackling both legal and illegal harms
All platforms will have a duty of care to protect children using their services
Laws will not affect articles and comments sections on news websites, and there will be additional measures to protect free speech
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
I’m unashamedly pro tech but that can’t mean a tech free-for-all. Today Britain is setting the global standard for safety online with the most comprehensive approach yet to online regulation. We are entering a new age of accountability for tech to protect children and vulnerable users, to restore trust in this industry, and to enshrine in law safeguards for free speech.
Let's see how the rhetoric matches reality.