Wembley, 30 July 1966. England is united as the country experiences what is undoubtedly the crowning moment of a golden era for English Football.
On that day over half a century ago the Three Lions, led by the legendary Bobby Moore, won the World Cup at Wembley against a strong West German side. On that day our patch of Greater Manchester was well represented as the winning goals were scored by Tameside’s Sir Geoff Hurst (born in Ashton, lived in Denton as a child)!
Not only that, but our hero that day achieved what no other footballer has achieved before, or since, by scoring a hat trick in final!
Yet since that glorious moment over fifty years ago it’s been fairly lean pickings, as well as lashings of bad luck! Mardonna’s “Hand of God” in 1986, David Beckham’s sending off at France 98 and Gareth Southgate’s infamous penalty miss at Euro 96 are etched in the memories of all England fans.
Now, by the time of reading this column we will as a nation either be preparing for England’s participation in what would be only their second World Cup Final ever, or hailing one of our most fearless and unified teams in decades – either way, I’m sure we’ll all be feeling proud whatever happens after the full time whistle against Croatia!
No sport grips the nations psyche quite like football, and Russia 2018 has certainly been one of the best examples of what this carnival of sport can bring to the world.
Few pundits ranked England as one of the favourites to gain its first World title in 52 years at the start of the tournament, particularly with strong contenders such as 2014 winners Germany, a formidable Brazil, as well as Spain and France.
Yet as we enter the closing stages of this extraordinary tournament most of these supposed A-listers have caught an early flight home, while many of us still dare to dream.
England teams and their stars have suffered under the heavy weight of expectation in the past. However, with less pressure this time round the squad has gelled into a hard working team under the affable leadership of Garth Southgate leaving us with genuine cause to be hopeful!
This year’s World Cup seems to have captured the nations mood more than at any time since Italia 90, and those heady night with Bobby Robson, Gary Lineker and Gazza. Having been so disappointed and perhaps disillusioned by previous England teams in both their attitude and performance, this team have really impressed us all.
By the time of reading this edition I hope and pray that as a nation we will be preparing for a final against either France or Belgium in Moscow on Sunday because winning a World Cup can almost reboot a whole nation and restore some pride.
I know that across Tameside we’ll be right behind our team, and win or lose, the celebrations will go on long into the evening.