The biggest story of 1966 was that the England football team won the World Cup when they beat West Germany 4-2 and Geoff Hurst famously scored the only world cup final hat trick ever. The whole country went football mad that year and everyone knows all about the brilliant victory. But Sir Alf Ramsay’s England team were not the only national footballing heroes of 1966. There was also Pickles the dog, without whom there may not have been a trophy for Bobby Moore and his teammates to lift on that glorious day in July.
The solid gold Jules Rimet trophy was stolen while on public display at an exhibition in London and this led to a nationwide search and the Football Association Chairman, Joe Mears, receiving threatening demands for money to ensure its safe return. Brazil, the then holders of the trophy were understandably outraged and accused the English FA of total incompetence. No change there then and they were almost certainly right of course but by a delicious twist of fate the trophy was stolen again in 1983, this time in Rio de Janeiro and this time it was never ever recovered. It is believed that it was melted down for the precious metal and it will almost certainly never be seen again.
Back to 1966 and this is the point where the story becomes unbelievably weird or perhaps just plain unbelievable. One evening a week after the theft, a man called David Corbett was out walking his mongrel dog Pickles, in south-east London, when the dog’s attention was caught by a package wrapped in newspaper lying under a bush in somebody’s front garden. It was the World Cup. I’ll say that again. It was the World Cup! No one has ever satisfactorily explained what it was doing under a bush wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror but David Corbett received a reward of £5,000, which was a huge sum, the equivalent of over £250,000 today and Pickles became an overnight national hero. I am surprised that he wasn’t in the BBC top one hundred greatest Britons. But some people said that the trophy was cursed and within weeks of the cup’s recovery and in a remarkable instance of bad luck, Pickles choked to death when he caught his lead in the bough of a fallen tree while chasing a cat.
Apart from the result there were some other things about the World Cup that are also interesting. The official mascot for example was a Lion called World Cup Willy who wore a Union Flag shirt of red, white and blue, which was strange because this was England that were playing and not the United Kingdom, but as none of the other home nations were in the finals I suppose England generously believed that they were representing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Embarrassingly England’s first defeat after the World Cup was against Scotland at Wembley in 1967 and the Scottish team that included the footballing legends, Denis Law, Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner promptly declared themselves the new World Champions. Sadly for them it didn’t work like that and lets face it they never will be.
At the end of the world cup final the words of the commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme, became part of broadcasting history when as the match was coming to the end in injury time a small pitch invasion took place just as Geoff Hurst scored to put England 4-2 ahead and Wolstenholme said ‘Some people are on the pitch … they think it’s all over … it is now!’ and these have become arguably the most famous words in English football, and a well known phrase that has passed into modern English usage. Wolstenholme was not a brilliant broadcaster it has to be said but as well as the World Cup Finals of 1966 and 1970 he commentated on the first ever game featured on Match of the Day in 1964 and covered every FA Cup final between 1949 and 1971 after which he was replaced by David Coleman.
Another good Football commentary story: