The Class of 66

The inaugural FIFA World Cup was hosted by Uruguay in 1930 but the pioneers of football, England didn’t make an appearance at the finals until 1950 which was held in Brazil. Unfortunately for Walter Winterbottom’s men, they’re first appearance at the World Cup didn’t go as expected and they failed to get out of the group stages after a shock defeat to USA and a loss to Spain in the final group game.

Four years later in Switzerland, a talented Three Lions team containing the likes of Nat Lofthouse, Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Billy Wright managed to progress through to the Quarter Finals where they met defending champions Uruguay. The South Americans we’re far too strong for England which resulted in a 4-2 defeat.

Sweden hosted the 1958 FIFA World Cup and England’s preparations we’re seriously dented when four key members of the England squad lost their lives in the Munich air disaster whilst travelling in European competition with their club, Manchester United. However, the patched-up England side remained undefeated in the group stages following draws with the Soviet Union, Brazil and Austria but defeat in a play-off match with the Russians for second place ended England’s World Cup campaign.

In 1962, the tournament was back in South America and held in Chile. England made it through to the Quarter Finals for the second time in their history but once again South American opposition in the form of Brazil dumped Walter Winterbottom’s men out of the competition. The following year, England manager Winterbottom was replaced by Ipswich Town’s Sir Alf Ramsay.

With a new manager in place and being host nation in 1966 certainly raised expectations and the below Class of 66 delivered in style by winning the tournament for the first and only time in England’s history. We take a look at the talented squad of players who lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at the home of football, Wembley Stadium!

  • Gordon Banks – Goalkeeper

Aged 28 / Leicester City

Banks played every minute of England’s 1966 World Cup campaign and was virtually a spectator for the group matches. He didn’t concede a goal until Portugal’s Eusebio put a spot kick past him in the semi-finals. One of the World’s greatest goalkeepers, he made 73 appearances for England between 1963 and 1972.

George Cohen -Defender

Aged 26 / Fulham

After the unfortunate injury to experienced right back Jimmy Armfield prior to the tournament, George took his chance and cemented his position in the England 1966 back four. He started every game and played a vital role in supporting the wingers with overlapping runs whilst making valuable tackles and blocks when in defence. He made 37 appearances for England between 1964 and 1967 and was the first of the Class of 66 to cease international duty.

  • Ray Wilson – Defender

Aged 31 / Everton

The eldest statesmen of the team at 31, Ray Wilson was an experienced left back and was a firm favourite of Alf Ramsay at No 3. Like Cohen, Charlton and Moore he made up the back four which started every game throughout the entire tournament, conceding only three goals in six matches. He made 63 appearances for England between 1960 and 1968.

  • Nobby Stiles – Midfielder

Aged 24 / Manchester United

The combative Mancunian provided the perfect balance in midfield alongside the industrious Alan Ball. The defensive minded Stiles enabled more attack minded midfielders like Charlton and Peters to push onto attack and his man-marking against Eusebio in the semi-final nullified the Portuguese stars impact upon the game. He was an ever present in the England team throughout the entire tournament but surprisingly Stiles only made 28 appearances for England between 1965 and 1970 scoring one goal. Nobby, was also partial to a post-match jig.

  • Jack Charlton – Defender

Aged 31 / Leeds United

Jack started his international career just days before his 30th birthday but he certainly made up for lost time and made the most of his opportunity as he become a fixture in Sir Alf Ramsay’s back four. The imposing no-nonsense defender developed a fantastic partnership with his ball playing central defensive partner Bobby Moore. The duo helped to stop any opponent score until England had reached the semi-finals. Jack and Bobby Charlton remain just one of a pair of footballing brothers to have won the World Cup. He made 35 appearances for England between 1965 and 1970 and scored six goals.

  • Bobby Moore © – Defender

Aged 25 / West Ham United

Regarded by Pele as the greatest defender he’d ever played against, captain and leader Bobby Moore was a composed and elegant defender who was equally adept at bringing the ball out of defence as he was at stopping attackers in their tracks. He was ever present throughout the entire tournament and played a significant part in two goals in the final. He still remains the only player in history to captain England to World Cup success. He made 108 appearances for England between 1962 and 1973 and scored two goals. A Rolls-Royce of a defender!

  • Alan Ball – Midfielder

Aged 21 / Blackpool

Bally was the youngest member of the squad at just 21 years of age. The midfielder was a useful member of the squad as he could play in a variety of positions and would bring bundles of energy to the team box to box. The Lancashire lad started all the knock-out matches within the tournament and played four out of six games in total. He made 72 appearances for England between 1965 and 1975 and scored eight goals.

  • Jimmy Greaves – Forward

Aged 26 / Tottenham Hotspur

Greavesy, was one of England’s most talented footballers of all-time and natural goal scorer had a phenomenal habit of hitting the back of the net. A lot was expected of the Spurs man at the 1966 World Cup but Jimmy failed to score in the opening three group games and then incurred a bad injury against France which required 14 stitches which kept him out of the side for the rest of the tournament. Jimmy’s pain was Geoff Hurst’s gain as he stepped in to replace him. Despite him drawing a blank in 66, Jimmy still holds the record for most hat tricks for England with six in total. He also remains England’s 5th top goal scorer of all-time with 44 goals in 57 games with an incredible goals / game ratio. He’s also well skilled at taming roam dogs on the field of play.

  • Bobby Charlton – Midfielder

Aged 28 / Manchester United

This Busby Babe made his international debut just two months after the Munich Air disaster in 1958, which left him and many others fighting for their lives. He was named in the squad for the 1958 World Cup but didn’t play but he did make his World Cup debut in Chile four years later. In 1966, Bobby played a pivotal role in England’s success as he scored in the opening game and was decisive in the semi-final against Portugal where he scored a brace to lead England to the final. The attacking midfield man was well respected for his long-range passing ability and his ferocious shots from distance. During his England career he made 106 appearances between 1958 and 1970 and scored 49 goals from midfield. An incredible player who also went on to win the coveted Ballon d’Or award in 1966.

  • Geoff Hurst – Forward

Aged 24 / West Ham United

The West Ham striker didn’t make his international debut until February 1966, but luckily he impressed Sir Alf enough to earn a place in the World Cup squad. He didn’t start any of the group matches as Greaves and Hunt we’re preferred but when Greaves picked up an injury in the final group game an opportunity arose for Sir Geoff and he didn’t waste it. Hursty scored the winning goal against Argentina in Quarter final and those heroics continued in the final when he bagged a spectacular hat-trick in a 4–2 victory over West Germany at Wembley Stadium. He still remains the only player to do so in a World Cup final. During his England career he made 49 appearances between 1966 and 1972 and scored 24 goals. They think it’s all over…….it is now!!

  • John Connelly – Forward

Aged 27 / Manchester United

John Connelly was selected for both the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads but made just one appearance in the opening game of the 1966 tournament which ended in a goalless draw against Uruguay. That was his last game for England and his international career ended with 7 goals in 20 appearances between 1959 and 1966.

  • Ron Springett – Goalkeeper

Aged 33 / Sheffield Wednesday

The Sheffield Wednesday stopper was Walter Winterbottom’s No 1 for the World Cup in 1962 but Sir Alf Ramsay opted for the younger Gordon Banks in the run up for the 1966 World Cup and Ron watched on from the bench as England lifted the Jules Rimet trophy. During his England career he made 33 appearances between 1959 and 1966.

  • Peter Bonetti – Goalkeeper

Aged 24 / Chelsea

Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti had a great career at Stamford Bridge and was extremely unfortunate to be playing at the same time as Gordon Banks who was Sir Alf’s No 1. He played understudy to Banks and won seven international caps over his four years on the international scene.

  • Jimmy Armfield – Defender

Aged 30 / Blackpool

Jimmy was well regarded as one of the best right back’s in the World in the early 60’s. The Blackpool man made his England debut in 1959 against Brazil in front of 120,000 fans at the Maracana Stadium and a few years later he was playing in the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Unfortunately, a couple of years later and Armfield suffered an injury which opened the door for George Cohen who took the opportunity with both hands and essentially ended Jimmy’s international career and limiting him to just two more caps before retiring from England duty. During his England career he captained the Three Lions on 15 occasions during his 43 appearances between 1959 and 1966.

  • Gerry Byrne – Defender

Aged 27 / Liverpool

The Liverpool full back was kept out of the England 1966 team by established No 3 Ray Wilson who plied his trade across Stanley Park at Everton. He made just two appearances for England between 1963 and 1966 but had to experience the 1966 World Cup tournament from the bench.

  • Martin Peters – Midfielder

Aged 22 / West Ham United

The young and versatile midfielder made a big impression on Sir Alf Ramsay with his dynamic displays in the final warm up matches before he selected his squad. He did enough to earn his place in the squad but didn’t make the opening game against Uruguay. The manager made changes after a disappointing goalless draw and Peters had his chance alongside Nobby Stiles in midfield against Mexico. His performance kept him in the side all the way to the final. The West Ham midfielder put England 2-1 up against West Germany with just 12 minutes remaining but the Germans equalised in with just a minute remaining. It was left to his West Ham United colleague Geoff Hurst to finish the job with a brace and England had won it. During his England career he made 67 appearances between 1966 and 1974 scoring 20 goals.

  • Ron Flowers – Midfielder

Aged 31 / Wolverhampton Wanderers

The Wolves midfielder was an established England international with bags of experience which no doubt proved invaluable to the rest of the squad. He made his debut in 1955 and went on to make 49 appearances for England, scoring 10 goals. He was a key player in the 1962 World Cup but his role in the 1966 campaign was limited to watching from the side lines. However, the day before the World Cup final and Jack Charlton had taken ill and it was suggested that Flowers could be in to face the West Germans but Charlton recovered and the rest they say is history.

  • Norman Hunter – Defender

Aged 22 / Leeds United

The tough tackling central defender enjoyed partnering with fellow squad member Jack Charlton in the heart of the Leeds United defence but at international level he had to settle for being an understudy to the preferred Moore and Charlton combination. Between 1965 and 1974, Norman made 28 appearances and scored two goals. Rumour has it he has a fetish for biting ya legs too.

  • Terry Paine – Forward

Aged 27 / Southampton

The versatile attacking Saint made the headlines for England when he bagged a hat-trick at Wembley against Northern Ireland in 1963. He made just one appearance in the 1966 World Cup in the 2nd group match against Mexico but unfortunately injury in that match subsequently ended his international career. During his England career he made 19 appearances between 1963 and 1966 scoring 7 goals.

  • Ian Callaghan – Midfielder

Aged 24 / Liverpool

The Liverpool midfielder made just one appearance in the 1966 World Cup finals against France in the group stages but a change in formation led to Ian back to the bench for the remainder of the competition. Between 1966 and 1967 he made four appearances for the Three Lions.

  • Roger Hunt – Forward

Aged 27 / Liverpool

Goal machine Hunt, played in all six matches as England progressed to World Cup victory. The Liverpool front man scored three goals in the group stages to help the Three Lions progress with two goals against France and one against Mexico. During his international career he scored 18 times in 34 appearances between 1962 and 1969.

  • George Eastham – Midfielder

Aged 29 / Arsenal

George made his debut for England in 1963 and played his last game in 1966. He didn’t manage to kick a ball in the 1966 World Cup and he ended his international career with 18 caps and 2 goals.

Since victory at Wembley 55 years ago, England have failed to repeat the success of Sir Alf Ramsay’s team and only George Cohen, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Terry Paine, Ian Callaghan and George Eastham remain from that winning squad.

Post 1966, we’ve exited the tournament at the Quarter Finals stage on four occasions and finished 4th in 1990 and 2018 respectively. Sir Bobby Charlton has appeared in the most finals for the Three Lions with four World Cup tournaments (58 / 62/ 66 / 70) whilst Peter Shilton has made the most appearances with 17 World Cup games, Gary Lineker remains the top goal scorer with 10 goals in 12 games at Mexico 86 and Italia 90.

Can England go one step further in Qatar 2022? Answers on a postcard.

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