This article was originally published in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner
A few years ago, with World Cup fever in full swing, we thought it would be fruitful to delve into the Examiner’s archives to see how the people of Huddersfield watched and celebrated tournaments gone by. Having recently witnessed England’s 6-1 shellacking of Panama, and with ‘Football’s Coming Home’ still ringing in our ears, we decided to indulge our romantic side by reviewing the 1966 World Cup.
A no brainer, right? Well, on paper, perhaps.
You see, the most striking aspect of the Examiner’s 1966 coverage is that the sport editors seemed to display only a passing interest in the competition. Indeed, on the opening day, when Uruguay held England to a 1-1 draw, most of the back page was taken up by the latest horse racing results and odds.
Foreign teams fared even worse. On July 16th, for instance, the match reports for Argentina vs West Germany, Italy vs Russia, and Portugal vs Bulgaria shared an equal billing with the District League cricket results (Meltham beat Paddock, in case you were wondering).
What’s more, we’d assumed there’d be articles about England star and local boy done good Ray Wilson, not to mention first-hand accounts of the celebrations that accompanied England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany in the final. But it appears the news editors were even less interested than their sporting counterparts.
There are some interesting insights to be gleaned from this somewhat limited coverage, however.
First off, because the Examiner used to print three editions, readers were often treated to a pre-match, half-time, and post-match review of important games all on the same day. On the day of the final, the second edition went with ‘England side unchanged’, while the third edition read ‘Peters puts England ahead in World Cup’. And we thought following results on a mobile app was stressful.
Second, the press were just as circumspect about England’s chances in 1966 as they have been in every tournament since. After the draw with Uruguay, the sport editors could barely contain their disappointment, plumping for ‘Uruguayans bore out Ramsey’s predictions’ as a header. The England faithful were true to form, too. “Before the end of last night’s match a section of the crowd were giving England the slow handclap and calling ‘Wake up, England!’” Hindsight, eh?
Finally, politicians were just as enthusiastic about associating themselves with the nation’s sporting success as they are today. According to a report from the fourth annual Halifax, Huddersfield and District Labour Women’s Advisory Council cocktail party, the MP for Brighouse and Spenborough, Colin Jackson, saw a clear parallel between Alf Ramsay’s side and the government at the time: “For the moment, he said, we have been blown slightly off course, but he felt this was nothing more than a similar situation to that of England in the early stages of the World Cup.”
Proof, if ever you needed it, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.