THERE have been many books written about the 1966 World Cup – a few pop up every time some form of anniversary is celebrated. And why not? It is, after all, the very high point of England’s football history, and sadly, unlikely to be repeated any time soon.
One of the latest batch is 1966 and not all that, edited by Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman.
This is 1966 told from many angles with more than a hint of the When Saturday Comes generation. In other words, you get the feeling that not a lot of the people writing the book actually remember the occasion when England sat on top of the world – and I say this as a 57 year-old who recalls the World Cup Willie nougat more than the actual competition. I did see “Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Champions” (quote from England programme) in 1968 and 1969 at Wembley.
This is a hugely enjoyable book that looks at 1966 from many different angles and helps put this landmark sporting event into context. There’s some excellent wordsmiths involved – any book that includes work by Simon Kuper, David Goldblatt and Simon Inglis deserves to be picked up more than once.
Aside from “A people’s history of 1966”, compiled by Arsenal devotee Amy Lawrence, most of the book is compiled from immaculate research and legend. Indeed, only Alan Tomlinson from University of Brighton was at the game itself, which given that the attendance – based on “I was there” stories – must have been around 10 million, is surprising (!).
It might have been nice to get more real insight from people that were involved (I spent an entire evening talking to Alan Ball a few years before he died and got his story, chapter and verse), either on the pitch, in the dressing room or covering the game. At the same time, hasn’t this been done before?
I found Rob Steen’s reference to the media as “the credible con-artists formerly known collectively as Fleet Street” unnecessary, especially as the football press pack at the time would have [presumably] included the likes of David Lacey, Geoffrey Green, Hugh McIlvaney and Brian Glanville, to name but a few.
But 1966 and not all that can indulge the occasional political viewpoint. The book offers plenty of entertainment and, in some respects, provides the final word on the competition that year. The book’s real strength is as a social history document. It is destined to be a valuable reference tool at Game of the People towers.
Anyone who wants to know about football before, during and after 1966 should read this, if only to receive confirmation that some things never change. Before the final, the Daily Mail commented: “If Germany beat us today at our national sport, we can always point out to them that we have recently beaten them twice at theirs.”
1966 and not all that is published by Repeater Books