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Peter Kenny Jones


Most people know a lot about the 1966 World Cup. Whether it be the image of Bobby Moore with the trophy at Wembley, the famous Geoff Hurst goal from which arguments over whether the ball crossed the line have been argued over for over fifty years now. The famous line of “They think it’s all over, it is now”, or Pickles the dog finding the Jules Rimet trophy after it was stolen, these all encapsulate this football tournament.

However, this article will focus on the cities that hosted the World Cup and more particularly, the legacies that the different national football teams left behind in the small cities and towns that they stayed and trained in during the tournament. With all of England’s games being played at Wembley and tickets in high demand, if fans from around the country wanted to catch any of the World Championship action they had to follow the other nations’ games. The other national teams resided near stadia in towns across England and they built strong relationships with locals. This led to small pockets of the country growing an affiliation to other nations with some interesting and amusing stories of national teams leaving local legacies behind them. These were the alternative hosts of the 1966 World Cup.

Eight stadiums were used in four different regions across the country These were:


Goodison Park, Liverpool

The ‘No. 2 ground’ for the World Cup. Goodison hosted some England games prior to the World Cup and was accustomed TO big England games, lying only behind Wembley for the highest average attendances during the tournament. Goodison went under big structural changes before the tournament; ‘The playing area has to be lengthened … levelled, re-seeded’, one stand needed to be completed and another undergoing ‘an almost complete transformation’. The reward for all this was that Everton was due to host England’s semi-final should they get there. However, this image of grandeur is not transferred from one French reporter: “this is the first report ever written by a journalist in a mouse hole. I am wedged firmly between two planks and two cigar-smoking Brazilians in yellow sombreros”.

Old Trafford, Manchester

Much like with Everton’s ground Old Trafford went through significant structural improvements before the World Championship. They spent £250,000 on a new stand and roof with the exciting announcement Manchester United were happy to announce ‘tennis-neck’ would come to an end as fans would have a clear, uninterrupted view of the playing pitch.


Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough

St. James’ Park was originally chosen over Ayresome Park for the World Cup providing Newcastle made substantial improvements to their stadium. These requests were not met and Ayresome Park, the smallest capacity stadium in the competition, was chosen. On average, less than 20,000 fans were at each game. At the height of the Cold War, the USSR faced North Korea in Middlesbrough.

Roker Park, Sunderland

Sunderland were building anticipation for the competition with ‘World Cup News’ in each match day programme which provided views from around the world about the upcoming tournament. One included a former Italian two-time World Cup winning manager and journalist at the time, Vittorio Pozzo, who spoke how he hoped teams would return to playing five men up front to score more goals and make the tournament more interesting.


Hillsborough, Sheffield

Sheffield Wednesday also built suspense for the tournament with the ‘World Cup Willie Reports’, named after the first ever tournament mascot, in their matchday programme each issue. In these reports, they highlight many things including the size of the Jules Rimet Cup and how much alcohol the winners could drink from it, the eagerness from participants to play down their chances of winning and one discussing the mighty Pele and his abilities. They also went through renovation for the tournament. This meant adding 8,500 seats to the stadium. Rather revolutionary at the time due to majority all standing stadiums

Villa Park, Birmingham

Villa Park was and remains an influential stadium in English football. The stadium was recently redeveloped before the 1966 World Cup by popular stadium developer Archibald Leitch and Villa Park was improved both structurally and decoratively making it an easy choice for the World Championship.


White City Stadium, London

Originally built for the Olympic games the stadium was the only stadium not purpose built for football. After the owner of Wembley Stadium refused to reorganise a pre-scheduled greyhound race, White City was asked to host Uruguay’s meeting with France. Perhaps surprisingly, given that Wembley was the home of the national team, White City was the headquarters for the World Championship where administrative operations were running.

Wembley Stadium, London

Wembley had been the permanent home of England since 1923 and was to host the final of the competition. The Queen had attended seven FA Cup finals before the World Cup and by time she was handing Bobby Moore the Cup she was accustomed to the process of handing out trophies at Wembley, although this occasion remains the most famous. Wembley had the highest attendance at the tournament with 98,270 fans at the England vs. France game in the group stage alone. The ticket money received for the England vs. Portugal semi-final was £134,000, the second highest for any football game in history at that point.

Ashbourne in Derbyshire played host to the West German team for eighteen days in July 1966, they played all their group games in Sheffield and Birmingham, so this was an ideal base geographically. They got changed in the pavilion and practised at Ashbourne’s playing fields in front of the many people from the town. The team would go on walks around Ashbourne and were received and remembered warmly in the town and enjoyed the peace and quiet that they received. Locals still think fondly of the ‘German invasion’ of 1966. They were clearly not ready for the English weather as they ordered 25 folding umbrellas to their hotel. However, they did integrate well with the locals. Helmut Haller, who later scored against England in the final, went out for lunch with one family. Franz Beckenbauer, arguably the greatest German footballer in history, went horse riding at one family’s farm and gave away his shirt to a local policeman who looked after the squad. Other members of the team were seen in the local Dog and Partridge Pub enjoying the music of The Beatles and Rolling Stones and the company of the local women. This is perhaps surprising that everyone got on so well. Not only was this only twenty years after World War Two. But this would also have been the first time many English people had seen any Germans since the war. Moreover, West Germany proved to be England’s biggest rivals in the World Cup. Many Germans travelled with their team and camped locally, the comradery was also present between fans. One local man recalled, ‘There was banter but we all hoped that England and Germany would be in the final together and, when it transpired, everybody was thrilled’. It is fair to assume that had West Germany not faced England in the final a substantial portion of Derbyshire would have been supporting the Germans. Pictures and film footage from their stay was put on display at a recent exhibition in Ashbourne FC’s clubhouse. It highlights the stark difference from the nature of fans today who would swamp any national team if they went for a walk in England.

Adi Dassler, founder of Adidas, visited the German squad in Ashbourne. He took a well-worn football boot used in the traditional Ashbourne Shrove Tuesday football matches, and put it in his private museum. The town has even been nicknamed ‘Little Deutschland’, however not all felt the friendly spirit as when one man was asked if he was going to watch West Germany train on the local field he replied: ‘No thanks, I’ve seen them on two fields already and that was quite enough for me’.

The Brazilian squad had their team base in Lymm, near Warrington in Cheshire. Pele was the most famous footballer in the world at the time, his presence in Warrington attracted an enormous number of autograph hunters and he was the ‘star attraction’. One local woman remembered that she waited outside the hotel many times and received Pele’s autograph on a dozen occasions. The Brazil squad signed many autographs each day at their hotel or at their training ground in Bolton. If they did not have enough time to sign everyone’s autograph book they would invite the waiting fans to leave their autograph book along with their address, so they could sign their books and post them back to the owners. Pele gave his training kit as a present to the hotel laundry man and this was on show at an exhibition that celebrated the Brazilians stay in Warrington. Pele did not enjoy the tournament as he vowed to never play in the World Cup again and only play for his club team Santos after a string of bad challenges he received in all his games (a vow he eventually broke four years later). Unfortunately for the locals and the Brazilian team, they were knocked out in the group stages and so the Warrington / Brazil love story ended all too abruptly for all involved. Much like with what happened in Ashbourne, these memories were presented at an exhibition in the Lymm Hotel called BrazilLymm66.

England were the hosts and eventual winners of the 1966 World Championship, they played all their games at Wembley and so their base was in Hendon in London. At the start of the tournament ten thousand less fans were at the game than at the final; as the tournament progressed and England were winning games, the interest around the England squad grew. The players of the day were much more becoming of a phrase that is overused about modern day footballers, working class heroes. The average wage for a footballer in England in 1966 was £44 and their lives had a lot more in common with the average working man of the day than footballers of today. The England squad were mostly unbothered in Hendon and went to watch cricket and see Mohamed Ali train for his upcoming fight and had several visits to Hendon Odeon. Bobby Charlton even went clothes shopping on the day of the final and was free to peruse the isles. Today the chance to take a picture within the national team hotel would be very rare. However, in 1966 photographers could visit the England squad during their down time.

This picture shows England captain Bobby Moore consoling England’s top striker at the time Jimmy Greaves.

Greaves had been told that he was not going to be selected for the final, and with no substitutions allowed in this time he would not take any part in the game nor would he receive a winner’s medal should they win. This would have been a moment of immense importance to Greaves and it is astounding that photographers were freely allowed to document this incident. To go from being able to roam the streets freely to the image of thousands on the streets celebrating in a day labelled ‘West End’s wildest night since VE night’ illustrates how the World Cup stirred up a whole nation.

North Korea were the biggest outsiders in the competition and played all their group games in the North East, in Middlesbrough. They overcame the odds to win the group and captured the hearts of the many locals who took a shine to the visiting North Koreans, creating a ‘special relationship’. Unlike the other case studies North Korea were not integrated with the local area due to their country’s Communist regime. They had a lot of security and were not allowed to wander around the town alone and when they did walk around with security they could not speak English. However, they did attempt to integrate into English life somewhat and were pictured watching a Laurel and Hardy comedy in their team hotel.

Yet, the most momentous occasion came when North Korea beat Italy at Ayresome Park and when Pak Do Ik gave his team the surprise lead. Italy were the much better team, but the North Koreans held out and the local fans at the game were in full support of the underdogs. The ‘little Korean lion roared’ and it did so with their ‘ally in the ‘Boro crowd’ and this game cemented a strong bond between the two. When Ayresome Park was scheduled to be demolished an Italian journalist called the local Middlesbrough Gazette stating Ayresome Park should remain as a reminder of the Italian teams worst ever defeat and said that the North Koreans, and Pak Do Ik in particular, are still a household name in Italy. To commemorate this historic moment there is a bronze casting of a ball to mark the spot from where Pak Do Ik scored his famous goal on the housing estate that is built where Ayresome Park used to stand.

The surviving members of the North Korea squad returned to Middlesbrough in 2002 and Pak Do Ik also received a great reception when he was invited onto the pitch at Middlesbrough’s new stadium.

In conclusion, football in the '60s was overwhelmingly a working-class game on and off the field. Some club players travelled to games on the bus or took summer jobs during the close season. England captain Bobby Moore in 1962 moved to the maximum wage at the time, £20 a week, a figure much closer to the average national wage than today’s footballers. Football was not as popular in the 1960’s as it is today. The interest in the championship was described by Dilwyn Porter, emeritus professor of sports history at De Montfort University in Leicester, as ‘a slow burner’. This explains why the footballers from around the world were free to stroll local towns and why they could build bonds with local people. Due to a lack of opportunity for people from the North West, North East and the Midlands to go to England matches it explains why they could almost switch allegiances and grow a love for another team that clearly still exists in towns like Ashbourne and Middlesbrough today. These areas away from London were passionate for football and just wanted to be involved in the World Cup while they had the opportunity.


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