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1966: The Year Everton Won the FA Cup & Lost the World Cup Semi-Final (My piece for Toffee Blues)

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

When Catterick guided Everton to the 1962-63 Division 1 League Title, they provided Everton fans with an ‘exciting season in which they were unbeaten at home’.[1] Many Evertonians may had assumed that it would ‘not be easy for anyone to depose Everton from the top position’ and that they could go on to dominate domestic football for the following years.[2] However, Everton did not win the league again until the 1969-70 season and the only silverware that they picked up in-between that, other than two charity shield wins, was the FA Cup in 1966.

The year 1966 will always be regarded as a momentous year for English football, due to England winning the World Cup. Everton also had reason to celebrate that season as they won the last game at Wembley before the World Cup began, the FA Cup Final. In conjunction with this, they were due to host the semi-final of the World Cup at Goodison Park, which could be featuring England, nevertheless things did not quite occur as they expected.

The FA Cup campaign was a significant event for Everton and Catterick, therefore it was coined ‘Everton’s Finest Day – A Day Never to be Forgotten’.[3] Their route to Wembley was very successful. They became the first team to make the final ‘without a single goal being scored against them’, and ‘reached the final for the first time in thirty-three years and only the second time in their long history’.[4] Everton were drawn against Sheffield Wednesday in the final. The game itself ‘was the type of final that fans dream about but don’t often see, goals in plenty and the most dramatic second half seen for years’.[5] Everton were two goals down, but ‘three goals in fifteen minutes’ proved enough ‘to keep the cup on Merseyside for the second year running’.[6] This dramatic comeback proved the ability of Catterick’s side and secured his first silverware since the Division 1 League Title in the 1962-63 season.

An integral part of the victory and ‘The Everton hero, with two goals, was 21-year-old Mike Trebilcock’.[7] The decision to start Trebilcock over star striker Fred Pickering was a huge decision by Catterick. Pickering was returning from injury but he had played in the last three games of the domestic season for Everton so it is fair to assume he would have been fit for the match. Despite this, Catterick put his faith in the young Trebilcock and it was repaid with two goals in the final. Catterick must be afforded a great deal of praise for making this bold decision and for the success that it produced.

Much like when Liverpool had won the cup in the previous year, the crowds that met the victorious Everton team were tremendous. Merseyside created a strong affinity to success and to the FA Cup. Everton had won the FA Cup the year after Liverpool had won it for the first time. Much like with the reception the Liverpool team were afforded, Everton and Catterick were welcomed into the city with huge crowds; ‘no other city can produce crowd scenes like this and for the second year running they’ve turned out to welcome a cup winning team’.[8] The end of the 1965-66 domestic season left Merseyside ‘With the Football League Championship and the F.A. Cup lodged in their city’, this truly was a golden age for Liverpool.[9]

The FA Cup Final in 1966 was the last game at Wembley, four weeks before the World Cup commenced. It can be argued that there was more interest in the FA Cup Final at the time. Over ten thousand more fans watch Everton lift the FA Cup than were there to see England’s first game against Uruguay at the same ground. Nevertheless, the World Cup of 1966 will be forever remembered in English football as England went on to win the trophy. Goodison Park, the home of Everton, was one of eight host stadiums for the tournament.

Goodison Park was given the accolade of being the ‘No. 2 ground’ for the World Cup in 1966.[10] Meaning that only Wembley would host more games, and that should England reach the semi-final, Goodison would host the game. This was a huge accolade for Goodison Park and Liverpool. Goodison was the second biggest stadium, only behind Wembley, with an average of 54,000 fans at each game in the tournament.[11] This was due to its redevelopment where there was ‘an almost complete transformation’ before the tournament.[12]

Be that as it may, the decision was taken by FIFA that the England versus Portugal semi-final should be held at Wembley instead of Goodison Park. This led to outrage across Merseyside with fans complaining that they had been betrayed. Goodison had never officially been awarded England’s semi-final, rather the winner of quarter final one and quarter final three. This turned out to be England against Portugal. Yet, even this was never officially announced. In the World Cup handbook, it said that the hosts of the semi-final games will be announced closer to the match when the teams were decided.[13] The decision was made by FIFA for Wembley to host England’s semi-final as it would attract a bigger crowd than the other game, West Germany versus USSR. This proved true as over fifty thousand more fans spectated the Wembley match than the Goodison tie.[14]

These statistics do not consider the many fans that did not want to attend the game, as they felt let down. Indeed, many of those who had already pre-purchased tickets chose not to attend. 62,000 fans attended the Goodison Park game of Portugal against Brazil in the group stages of the competition, only 43,000 attended the semi-final.[15] This proves to be an unusual statistic, it is fair to assume that ordinarily the semi-final would attract a bigger crowd than a group game, due to the larger magnitude of the match. It should be noted that the group game featured Pelé and Eusébio, two of the best-known footballers of the time which may be a reason to attract such large crowds. Anyhow, Merseysiders felt let down and many voiced their anger by boycotting the semi-final.

Those that did attend protested the decision made by FIFA. There were homemade banners reading “Down With FIFA”, “England Fix Insults Liverpool” and “England Snubs Liverpool”.[16]

John Moores commented that he had been led to believe that should England reach the semi-final they would host the game, Hughson denotes that this helped to stoke this fury amongst fans.[17]

What should have been a period of celebration for English and Merseyside football ended rather sourly. This again does not take away from the work of Catterick and Everton that year, as well as Liverpool for winning the First Division that season. The prospect of a World Cup Semi-Final involving the England team taking place at Goodison Park would have made Merseyside very proud, and particularly Everton supporters. However, what could have been a crowning moment for football in Liverpool, was slightly tarnished. Whether the fault lies with FIFA or the English FA is irrelevant as the disappointment felt across Merseyside was palpable, nationwide.

Despite all this, the combination of Liverpool winning the FA Cup in 1965 and the Division 1 League Title in 1966, Everton winning the FA Cup in 1966 and Goodison Park being the number two ground for the World Cup, illustrates that this was a golden age for football in Liverpool. Wembley was the home of the England team, yet Liverpool was the home of English football and this was a momentous period for the city.


TWITTER @PeterKennyJones



[1] ‘20 Questions answered by Roy Vernon captain of Everton, the Football League champions’, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly (London, July 1963).

[2] ‘We want that title – and the new Busby Babes will help to get it!’, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly (London, September 1963).

[3] ‘Everton’s Finest Day – A Day Never to be Forgotten’, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly (London, July 1966).

[4] British MovieTone, Everton For Wembley (Everton v Manchester United), at accessed 04 Dec. 17.

[5] British Pathé, The Cup Final 1966, at accessed 04 Dec. 17.

[6] British MovieTone, Contest for the Cup – Colour, at accessed 04 Dec. 17.

[7] ‘Double by Trebilcock sparks Everton Cup comeback’, The Daily Telegraph (London, 15. May. 1966).

[8] British MovieTone, Riotous Return for Everton, at accessed 04 Dec. 17.

[9] ‘Pride of Merseyside!’, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly (London, July 1966).

[10] ‘Evertonia: In the “Kitty”’, Everton Football Club Official Programme (Liverpool, 4. Dec. 1965), p.3.

[11] T. Baker, 1966 World Cup 40th Anniversary Revisited: Memories of England’s Greatest Victory (Dorset, 2006), p.117.

[12] ‘Evertonia’, Everton Football Club Official Programme (Liverpool, 11. Apr. 1966), p.3.

[13] J. Hughson, England and the 1966 World Cup: A Cultural History, p.40.

[14] T. Baker, 1966 World Cup 40th Anniversary Revisited: Memories of England’s Greatest Victory (Dorset, 2006), pp. 109-111.

[15] Ibid, p.109.

[16] BBC, ‘In pictures: Echoes of the ‘66 World Cup’, at accessed 04 Dec. 17.

[17] J. Hughson, England and the 1966 World Cup: A Cultural History, pp 41-42.


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