In the Shadows of '66 - England (still) Expects
Just as every South African remembers where they were on 24 June 1995 (which will be the subject for a separate buzz) every English person of a certain generation will never forget the date 30 June 1966 - on that day soccer history was made as a crowd of over 96,000 witnessed the national soccer team overcome the might of the West Germans in an encounter of epic proportions at Wembley Stadium. The date is forever etched into the collective psyche of a nation.
Leading 2-1 with time running out the 3 Lions of England were taken into extra time by a last gasp goal from the never-say-die Germans with defender Wolfgang Weber netting in the 89th minute to tie teh game at 2-2.
The 30 minute extra time period was itself the stuff of legend with West Ham striker Geoff Hurst (later knighted) who had already netted England's 1st goal in regulation time scoring not once but twice in extra time to complete the first and so far only hat-trick in a world cup final.England 4 - West Germany - 2.
When HRH Queen Elizabeth handed Captain Bobby Moore the tropy a nation went into raptures for weeks on end. An unspectacular team of committed players with no apparent stars had done the seemingly impossible. Based on a nucleus of West Ham players, the team translated superior fitness levels, non-stop running and an all round high work ethic on the field into an all conquering run to the title. A true case of the whole amounting to much more than the sum of it's parts.
A golden age for English football was proclaimed and was expected to last for a long time - alas it never materialized and indeed turned into a "false dawn" which has now lasted over 50 years.
The history of English disapointments since then is long and very well chronicled. England have flattered only to deceive an expectant and football-mad nation on multiple occassions. Penalty losses at crucial stages in big competitions (6 in total!) on field meltdowns (witness Gascoigne's sending off at world cup 1990) tactical coaching blunders and an influx of foreign stars into the English Premier League have all played their role in the declining fortunes of England football.
It would be fair to say that over the past two decades English fans no longer have such high expectations - a grudging acceptance that their team would exit major competitions sooner rather than later has replaced the formally high hopes and has become the new norm.
Neverthelesss the fierce pride of the English football is undimmed - the bulldog spirit prevails. All across England tonight in pubs, clubs and homes the heartbeat of English football is truly alive and well!
When Harry Kane and his young but talented squad take the field they will be stepping into those very big boots of the class of '66.
The call to the 3 Lions still rings our loudly and clearly - ENGLAND EXPECTS!
Comethe the hour, cometh the men...UP THE 3 LIONS!
Harry Kane will lead the England team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia