1966 World Cup memories of the former CEO of the FA

BY Brian Barwick

18th May 2023 Sport

1966 World Cup memories of the former CEO of the FA

Brian Barwick OBE, former CEO of the FA, looks back on England’s triumphant win at the 1966 World Cup in an excerpt from his new book, 60 Years of the World Cup

In his new book, 60 Years of the World Cup, Brian Barwick OBE gives a fun, frank, nostalgic and personal reflection of his six-decade association with football’s biggest showpiece. As a former BBC and ITV executive and former CEO of the FA, Brian witnessed many of the tournament’s most famous matches, most gifted players and coaches and iconic moments, and made record-breaking TV programmes to broadcast the World Cup to millions!

However, his 60-year relationship with the World Cup dates back to the magical tournament of 1966, with stories about Pickles, Pelé and “people are on the pitch…” In these excerpts from his book, Brian looks back on the year that England won the greatest prize in football and all the personal memories and experiences, signature collecting and memorabilia that went along with it.  

A bus ride to football heaven

Goodison Park World Cup match ticket 1966
Brian's World Cup match ticket at Goodison Park. Credit: Brian Barwick

The telephone on the small hall table of our house in Liverpool rang around 5.30pm on Tuesday, July 19, 1966. My mother put down the frying pan she was using in the kitchen and answered it.

“Hello. What? How? Now? Three! Wow! OK, let me tell the boys, they’ll be thrilled, and we’ll set off in a couple of minutes.”

Mum put the phone down in a state of excitement and turned to my brother David and I, saying, “Right, you two, quickly get your coats on. We are going the World Cup!”

And so we were; via the 6C and the 81D Corporation green buses we were transported from our family home in Childwall five minutes up the road to Goodison Park, the famous home of 1966 FA Cup winners Everton and that evening the host of the crucial World Cup group three match between reigning champions Brazil, and one of the most impressive teams in the tournament, Portugal.

"The game was being heralded as a duel between two world superstars—Pelé versus Eusébio. And my mother, brother and I were there to witness it"

The game was being heralded as a duel between two world superstars—Pelé versus Eusébio. And the three of us were there to witness it, along with over 50,000 other hugely expectant spectators. The teatime phone call had come from my dad, who was on police duty at the match—and, when he had got to the ground, he had managed to get his hands on three tickets for Goodison Park’s Bullens Road Stand. Now, as this book will hopefully highlight, I have enjoyed many special times being part of the World Cup adventure—and in many different capacities—but this first match, being staged up the road and being watched around the world, provided me with a never-to-be-forgotten football memory.

It was exciting for my brother and I to be unexpectedly attending a match that we would have been glued to in front of our black and white TV at home. The atmosphere in the stadium that night was electric as these two international heavyweights went toe-to-toe. The match will be remembered with mixed emotions—for two tremendous goals from Benfica’s Eusébio, fast becoming one of the stories of this World Cup, and a wretched set of tackles that injured Pelé and saw him limp out of that night’s action, sending the world’s greatest footballer and his South American teammates spinning out of the competition. Portugal 3, Brazil 1.

World Cup stolen? Send for Pickles!

In March 1966, one of sport’s most iconic trophies had been stolen while on show at a stamp exhibition in London’s Westminster Hall. Taken from its glass display case by a person or people unknown, its whereabouts became a major news story—and a major embarrassment to the FA. The tournament was still four months away, and the FA “blazers” had only gone and lost the trophy.

Enter a very unlikely hero. Pickles, a loveable mongrel dog, saved the day as he was about to set off on his daily walk in London. “Pickles was running around over by my neighbour’s car,” explained his owner, David Corbett. “As I was putting his lead on to take him on his walk, I noticed this package laying there, wrapped just in newspaper but very tightly bound with string. I tore a bit off the bottom, and there was a blank shield, then the words Brazil, West Germany and Uruguay printed. I tore off the other end and it was a lady holding a very shallow dish above her head. I’d seen the picture of the World Cup in the papers and on TV, so my heart was thumping.”

Corbett took the package to his local police station—and the precious sporting orb was back in safe hands. Pickles became a national hero.

A 1966 treasure trove

Signed World Cup Willie postcard
Brian's World Cup Willie postcard, signed by World Cup hattrick hero Geoff Hurst. Credit: Brian Barwick

My World Cup Willie scrapbook has stood the test of time, as have my World Cup Willie lapel badges and blazer badges, keyring, plastic World Cup Willie model and World Cup Willie postcards.

I still have the tournament’s Official Souvenir Programme (price two shillings and six pence) and the subsequent World Cup Final Souvenir Programme—this precious artefact signed by the two England goalscorers that famous day, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. I have the World Cup edition of the much-loved Football Monthly and the Daily Express’s colourful World Cup Guide. I also hunted down copies of the Radio Times and TV Times, which gave a breakdown of their respective coverage plans for the tournament. Souvenir newspapers and copies of the Sunday newspapers on the day after the final have also survived the test of time.

"I still collect stuff connected with the tournament, looking on websites that sell this memorabilia. 'Dust-gatherers' as my wife called it! 'Priceless,' as I respond"

Also still intact is a complete set of tickets from the tournament’s matches played at Wembley Stadium, signed envelopes carrying World Cup winners stamps and postmarks, and a series of signed photographs of the England team members and some of their famous German opponents. 

I still collect stuff connected with the tournament, and regularly scramble around the websites that sell this type of memorabilia to add to the collection. “Dust-gatherers” as my wife called it! “Priceless,” as I respond.

The greatest commentary line

Back in 1966, an hour before kick-off, the vastly experienced Kenneth Wolstenholme made his way to his BBC commentary position by initially walking around the perimeter track around Wembley Stadium. En route he was greeted by a policeman, who wished him luck and, nodding towards the fans behind him said, “Don’t worry, if one single person tries to get over this small wall and on to the pitch, I’ll have them”.

Luckily for Wolstenholme, that very same policeman—or one of his colleagues nearby—momentarily got caught up in the emotion of the occasion, failing in their duty in the final moments of the match and thus set up the BBC commentator to deliver his line of a lifetime, “Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now!”

The World Cup—up close and personal

Brian's signed World Cup final programme
Brian's signed World Cup Final programme, signed by England scorers Hurst and Peters. Credit: Brian Barwick

The celebrations went on for days after England clinched victory—it was big, big news. Two weeks later, I was at Goodison Park to watch the FA Charity Shield between league champions Liverpool and FA Cup winners Everton. Before the match, two of our World Cup-winning heroes, Roger Hunt and Everton’s Ray Wilson, did a lap of honour, holding aloft the Jules Rimet Trophy. The capacity crowd went completely bonkers and it remains one of my most-cherished memories of a lifetime watching football. Magical.

Over the next 12 months I spent both my time, and my pocket money, chasing down the autographs of England’s World Cup winners—and got them all. And I even got positive replies to similar requests sent to West German stars Uwe Seeler, Helmut Haller, Wolfgang Weber, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and Franz Beckenbauer. I still have all of those autographed photos among my special football souvenirs.

"In the 50-odd years that followed I have had the privilege of meeting, in person, all the famous 11 men who starred for England on that unforgettable day at Wembley"

In the past 50-odd years that have followed that special victory I have had the privilege of meeting, in person, all of the famous 11 men who starred for England on that unforgettable day at Wembley. And, while in my role at the FA, I was able to play a small part, with significant others, in making sure that the 11 members of the England squad who didn’t start the final at Wembley, including the great Jimmy Greaves, got their own World Cup winners’ medals as well. I was chuffed to help in doing that for them.


60 Years of the World Cup book cover

60 Years of the World Cup: Reflections on Football’s Greatest Show on Earth by Brian Barwick is out now on Pitch Publishing

Banner photo: The Queen presents the 1966 World Cup to England captain, Bobby Moore. Credit: National Media Museum from UK, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

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