Team spirit

I don’t need to mention there’s an important semi-final tonight, do I? Most of the media build-up is drawing parallels with Italia ’90, for understandable reasons, yet for someone of my generation (I was born in 1959) 1966 is still the touchstone. I just about remember watching the final back then, although its real impact didn’t sink in until about two years later, when I started getting serious about playing football. Reading Leo McKinstry’s biography of Sir Alf Ramsey has been a a reminder of what a different world it was then. No multi-million contracts, of course. But no PlayStation, no Xbox, no Dr Dre headphones either. Just the telly, the radio and the occasional trip to the flicks:

Sometimes as Jimmy Armfield remembers, Alf’s announcement of a cinema outing could be quite abrupt: “We would be sitting in Hendon Hall Hotel after lunch or dinner, then Alf would suddenly say, ‘Harold [trainer Harold Shepherdson], John Wayne is on at the Odeon.’

‘Very good, Alf.’

‘I think we should go. what do you think?’


‘Then tell the lads we’re going to the Odeon.’ By then, he’s picked up his gear, got his coat and is almost out the door. And we have to run up the stairs, get our coats, and then chase him to the Odeon. So we have the sight of the England football team running down the hill after our manager. As he gets to the ticket office, we would all pile in behind him. And he would say, ‘I want 26 seats.’ We would always go upstairs. It was dark, the film would often have started and we would be noisily clambering into our seats and Alf would say, ‘Shut up, John Wayne’s on.’ That was Alf. He loved his westerns.”

About clivedav184z

Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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