One club men are hard to find – George Cohen, England ’66 and West Germany

GEORGE COHEN’s passing is another reminder that time is getting on, leaving us with just Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton from the triumphant 11 and five from the England squad of 22 from that glorious summer of 1966.

Cohen’s football career is well documented, his cheery disposition very notable in all media discussions about England’s World Cup victory. Fulham was his only club, Cohen may have been one of the less celebrated figures at the time of England’s success, but at Craven Cottage, he remained a club icon. Full backs are rarely in the spotlight, but his name rolled off the tongue in every attempt to name the “boys of 66”- Banks, Cohen, Wilson… and so on.

Cohen was a one club man, not unusual in 1966, but nevertheless, a stable, reliable and determined footballer. In that 1966 squad, there were other similarly loyal figures: Bobby and Jack Charlton, Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan, Terry Paine, Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles, Norman Hunter, Ron Flowers and Peter Bonetti. Not all were one-club men by the time their playing days ended, but most spent peak career with a single employer. Sadly, his later career was plagued with injury and he had to retire before he was 30. The only medal was the World Cup winners’ medal of 1966. At club level, he won nothing. He was not alone in the England squad – Ron Springett, Jimmy Armfield and Terry Paine all ended their careers without a medal from domestic football, but only Cohen played in the final.

The most decorated player in Sir Alf Ramsey’s squad of 1966 didn’t line-up in the final against West Germany. Ian Callaghan of Liverpool won 11 major prizes, including five league titles and four European trophies. Between them, the winning side of 1966 won 28 top prizes with their clubs, but because some played for relatively unfashionable clubs, their trophy haul was modest. This underlines how football has changed in the years since 1966 – top players are supposed to win prizes, as evidenced by the medal cabinets of the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, among others.

Only five of the England team that lifted the Jules Rimet trophy won the Football League title: Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Bobby Charlton, Alan Ball and Roger Hunt. Legendary players like Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Gordon Banks and Geoff Hurst won surprisingly little in their club careers. Furthermore, few members of the 22-man squad – Jack Charlton, Jimmy Armfield and Alan Ball – made a mark in management.

In recent years, time has caught up with the boys of 1966 and 10 have died in four years. Their opponents at Wembley in July 1966 have fared much better. While there are five members of the squad still with us, there are 14 West Germans still enjoying their autumn years, including seven of the starting 11. Perhaps this is due to lifestyle or the difference in social conditions in Germany. Possibly it has something to do with the way elder statesmen are treated after their playing time is over. According to some professionals from the 1960s and 1970s, they were kept playing by dozens of pain-killing injections and as a result, they become riddled with arthritis or rheumatism in old age. Was that any different in West Germany? Perhaps they simply lead healthier lives? Cohen battled illness after his career finished, eventually being given the all-clear on bowel cancer in 1990.

He remains one of only 11 Englishmen to play in the World Cup final, a feat that has eluded countless groups of England hopefuls. He was also an outstanding footballer, rated England’s finest right back with an attacking style that proved to be very influential. His name will live on. He may have won just one medal, but what a medal that was.

World Cup 1966: Is this our final celebration?


AS football remembered the 50th anniversary of England’s finest footballing two hours, somebody in Australia tweeted, “can you believe it, they are still crowing about something that happened 50 years ago – have they not go anything better to do?”

Actually, as far as football goes, we do not have anything for notable to commemorate. Sad as that may seem, winning the World Cup in 1966 is an important historical date in modern British history. And as time goes by, its relevance will grow and the benefit of hindsight will allow academics to over-inflate its relevance. For the many people that watched the game on July 30 2016 in memory of a fine achievement, it was just great fun!

It may be, though, that the 50th anniversary may signal the end of the “great anniversary” of 1966. By the time 75 years comes around, nobody will have been at the game – or precious few – and the men who were the red shirt of England will have passed away.

Game of the People has penned a few pieces on 1966, and here they are:

How non-league welcomed the heroes of ‘66 A lack of opportunity at the highest level led some of the 1966 squad to seek solace in non-league football. How strange it must have been to see the likes of Hurst, Moore and Peters turning up at this level after the lofty heights of their achievement.

Full story:

Last hurrah: The meaning of 1966 Time has a habit of distorting history and, to some extent, that’s happening right now. Some people would  like to think there’s some deep link between the World Cup “coming home” and the “Swinging Sixties”. In terms of chronology, they cannot be disconnected, but England’s success on the football field has no relation to the artistic and popular cultural movements of the time.

Full story:

England really were world champions in 1966 Were England really the best team in the world when they beat West Germany 4-2 in the final in 1966? Actually, they pretty much were not far off it. Over a four-year period between 1963 and the end of 1966, England’s record was almost the best in the world.

Full story:

Football Read Review: A new slant on that 1966 story – 1966 and not all that 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.”

Full story:

The [almost] forgotten men of 1966 World Cups can often be the end or beginning of a glittering international career. For the men that lined-up on that glorious afternoon for English football, the World Cup final of 1966 meant they could benefit from the loyalty of Sir Alf Ramsey for some time – critics might say too much time. For the other 11, their international careers barely lasted beyond the celebrations.

Full story:

Finally, Game of the People proposed that July 30 is an annual day of commemoration of England’s World Cup triumph. We wrote to a number of bodies to see if we could drum up support for “Association Day”. Click here to see the article