1966 and All That

When the family of Tom Kelly were going through his things following his passing last December, they came across an essay he had written a decade ago recounting his life as an Evertonian, going back five decades. It’s a lovely, evocative piece of writing, worthy of a wider audience.

Tom Kelly 15/03/2024 15comments  |  Jump to last

Introduction by Ben Kelly

My Dad passed away of a heart attack in the back of the car on his way back from the Manchester City game just after Boxing Day. I know he would have enjoyed the game despite sharing everyone’s frustrations with handball decision and the result. Perhaps as “Everton" a game as you could get for your last one. 

He took me to my first game in November 1985, a home draw to Nottingham Forest, a very disappointing result given our ambitions to win the league. It’s been a bumpy ride since then, although we had the highs of the 1995 Old Wembley Cup Final and the 2009 New Wembley Semi-Final together. Incredible memories of which I wish we’d had more.

Being an Everton fan, perhaps by necessity, isn’t all about winning. In a letter he wrote to me during Covid, he said one of the things he most missed was sitting together watching football – “a real dad bonus”. I think this says everything.     

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Latterly a season ticket holder in the Top Balcony, he’d been attending games at Goodison Park for over 60 years since being first taken there by his older brother. As excited as he was by the new stadium (we have a stone), his great love was Goodison Park and he dreaded the day we’d leave…

This piece was originally written by my Dad for the fanzine When SKies Are Grey in 2014 prior to the World Cup in Brazil. I’m not sure whether it was ever published. I re-discovered it following his death and wanted to share it as a first-person account of Goodison and of being a football fan in 1966. As another piece of history worth noting, fate also dictated that Franz Beckenbauer died the day I found this. 

1966 and All That

For its 50th anniversary, I went to see a digitally remastered screening of A Hard Day's Night. Luckily, it was also a rest day for the 2014 World Cup, so the film – while still in black and white (its synaesthetic colour provided by the songs) – offered welcome relief from the uniform gloom of the Everton-bashing TV media. It made me think of when Goodison hosted the World Cup and how, for a 15-year-old college pudding from Scottie Road, the 1966 tournament turned a grey world into vibrant colour. Yellow, Cherry Red and, of course, Blue.

I was Everton daft, besotted by Alex Young. My only ambition was to manage Everton or, failing that, marry the ugly daughter of a board member in the hope of inheriting his shares. My Dad, a lukewarm Red, had abandoned me and my elder brother to our passion and we had not long come back from a first ever visit to London and that triumphant FA Cup Final. Now we had the pleasure of block-booking tickets for all of the Goodison World Cup games. 7s/6d each and in pastel shades. Three eighth-finals (really); one quarter-final; and a semi.

As an 11-year-old, my parents had left me to sit up late and watch the 1962 World Cup Finals from Chile. The games were recorded and flown over to be shown on the BBC with Alan Weeks. The Battle of Santiago, Garrincha and, best of all, Pele. Now he, miraculously, was on Merseyside. Sod the GCEs, I lapped up every written word there was and waited for the party to begin. Football, as well as being in black and white, wasn’t relentlessly on the telly in 1966. There were no foreigners playing in England, so you had never seen these players play, which alone made them legends.

So yeah, I was excited getting the bus to Goodison for the first game. People didn’t wear kit to the match or anywhere but when you played. The majority of fans seemed like the usual Everton crowd, identifiable by the scarf. (I did briefly have an Everton shirt but someone robbed it off our washing line, which is a good trick in a second-floor tenement.) The anti-hooligan banking around the goal ends had been painted blue. It was 7.30 pm in July but I swear the floodlights were on. Goodison was at the time the best stadium in the country outside Wembley, chosen to host a semi-final. Things change.

I saw Pele score a goal. Garrincha’s bandy legs added a second as Brazil, at half-pace, beat Bulgaria. Hungary lost to Portugal in Manchester. After England’s boring 0-0 draw in the opening game, the tournament was on.

The next game was Brazil against Hungary. Pele apart, I had formed an attachment to Hungary. Puskas and the ‘Match of the Century’ in 1953; the crushed rebellion of 1956; the violin playing; and the really cool retro kit. I approached Goodison, however, with the feeling I’d lost my heart to a gallant loser (something I learned to get used to in subsequent years).

Night games at Goodison have a noble history and this game is up there with the best. Pele was missing, having come into the tournament injured. Hungary had Florian Albert, a Number 9 in name only, who floated across the pitch like a thing of beauty, and Janos Farkas, who scored the goal everybody who has ever kicked a ball dreams of (like Cahill’s goal against Holland, only miles better). And my Hungary beat the mighty Brazil, 3-1.

This left Brazil needing to beat Portugal in the final group game at Goodison to stay in. A hobbling Pele was recalled and subjected to a thorough beating by the Portuguese that fit he would have found difficult to cope with. I saw Eusebio and Pele on the same pitch. Our Goodison pitch. But I couldn’t bring myself to like Portugal or even Eusebio. I was an Alex Young man. I preferred the feint to the muscular surge, the chip to the bludgeoning power. That said, Eusebio was a sight to behold. Portugal won but left a bad taste in the mouth.

Portugal’s quarter-final against North Korea was a mad game in the sunshine. The Koreans were of varying stature but all seemed small against the towering Jose Torres (known as O Bom Gigante to the Portuguese) and Eusebio, The Incredible Hulk in a red shirt. The Koreans went 3-0 up but they shouldn’t have made him angry. Eusebio scored four in an eventual 5-3 win and the fans were lucky the net maker was a craftsman.

I should have had an England-Portugal semi-final to look forward to but the host nation pulled a fast one and switched the game to Wembley. Some things don’t change. Instead, I got to watch another mythic figure in the all-black wearing Lev Yashin, goalkeeper for the Soviet Union (conquerors of my treasured Hungarians in the quarter-finals). But, as usual, the Germans won, with a goal from a young Franz Beckenbauer. 

My World Cup had overflown. It didn’t matter that I didn’t even see the final as my cousin married a Scot that day and the family three-line whip was on. My interest in England extended to the fact that Ray Wilson was playing for them. Though I was delighted that Alan Ball signed soon after. I could look forward to some purring football for a couple of years. Not to mention psychedelia; the Isle of Wight festival; and Jimi Hendrix.

The game has changed. Modern World Cups have twice as many teams. Every foul, every spit, every gesture is replayable a thousand times from ten different angles in vibrant HD. There’s shaving foam and multi-coloured boots. But do I long for the monochrome world of 1966 and those carefully preserved technicolour memories? Of Pele and Garrincha? Of Eusebio and Beckenbauer? Of Albert … to Bene … to Farkas … Goal? Nope. As fantastic as 1966 and all that was, I’d always rather watch the Blues at Goodison.

Tom Kelly

Related: 1966 World Cup Special Podcast


Reader Comments (15)

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Andy Crooks
1 Posted 15/03/2024 at 22:51:11
Brilliant, Tom. Really good read that is part of what makes this site so good. Thank you.
Charles Ward
2 Posted 15/03/2024 at 23:01:35
I was at the Korea game as well – strange to think a decade or so after a major war, North Korea appeared in a major international tournament.

And didn't Ray Wilson and Roger Hunt later parade the World Cup at the Charity Shield at Goodison that year?

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 15/03/2024 at 23:27:31
A great emotional and reflective read. Thank you for sharing.

Goodison. That made me get emotional thinking about the day we leave. What an experience it must have been to witness those players at Goodison Park.

I doubt it will be quite on that scale, but we will get to see similar when we host Euro 2028. Not that I'm bothered too much about England, but I've never liked the Wembley monopoly.

In my opinion, if you took the national team around the country, like the German model, you could get more buy-in. I'm a lost cause now, but it might have made a difference.

David France
4 Posted 16/03/2024 at 01:13:44
Thanks Ben. Your father was a truly great Evertonian. Now and then he would airmail small packages to me. I recall that a few years ago he sent me a handmade gift which I passed on to The Golden Vision. Alex and his wife were thrilled by his kindness.

As for 1966, I had saved my paper-round money to buy the 10-pack of tickets some 12 months earlier which included the poorly attended games at Old Trafford and the third-fourth decider and final. Like Tom, I felt cheated when the England-Portugal semi-final was moved to Wembley.

Of course, by then we had seen the real star of the competition – Florian Albert of Hungary as well as one the finest goals ever scored at the Old Lady – by his teammate János Farkas.

Tom and I were lucky, our beloved club – thanks mainly to Mr Moores – was so much different than today's Everton.

Steve Brown
5 Posted 16/03/2024 at 05:38:37
Thanks to Ben for posting this lovely article from his father.
John Keating
6 Posted 16/03/2024 at 06:51:53
Wow! That brought back some memories. What a great piece by a great Evertonian.

I can agree so much with Tom in that we knew so little about “foreign” players; to us, foreign was more like Alex Young coming all the way from Hearts! And yes, I also preferred Alex to all those “foreign” players.

Thinking of our club, our team, our stadium, football then, and nowadays… I could cry.

David Bromwell
7 Posted 16/03/2024 at 07:55:34
Thank you for sharing your Dad's memories.

We sometimes forget that, whilst we love all things Everton, so many of us also share a passion for football in general. And yes there used to be so much more romance and special occasions in those more innocent days before 24-hour in-home viewing became the norm.

Reading your Dad's words brings back my own early memories, which reminds me I must record them for my two sons.

Paul Birmingham
8 Posted 16/03/2024 at 08:21:43
Excellent story, Ben, that puts Everton Goodison Park and football in to perspective.

But I live in hope and Everton recovered from relegation in the 1950s to the greatest days perhaps in the 1960s and for some the 1980s.

Altogether now like never before in these wretched times for Everton FC. Hope on the horizon? We bloody well need some genuine hope and hopefully learn from the last 30-odd years of mismanagement of Everton Football Club.

John de Frece
9 Posted 16/03/2024 at 08:26:26
I could have written this myself almost word for word!

Dad a lukewarm Red – who always worked on a Saturday, thus abandoning me to the tender mercies of a Blue cousin, who carefully directed me to the correct place. Didn't waste too much time either! 10 years old to my first game (got beat of course) in 1960. We've been rubbish for most of my lifetime, haven't we?

Anyway, at 16, struggling with O-Levels and the World Cup. This time, Dad could take me and we got top class tickets in what was the old Main Stand. Unforgettable games, as so well described in the article.

Did alright with the O-Levels too as it happens. Priorities?!
Hell of a year, 1966 wasn't it? Coming back from 2-0 down against The Owls. Well, Everton always make sure they put you through the mill, don't they?

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dave Williams
10 Posted 16/03/2024 at 12:42:52
Fantastic article – a nostalgic read!
Peter Mills
11 Posted 16/03/2024 at 20:48:26
Tom, your article brought back so many memories.

After England's 0-0 draw in the opening game against Uruguay, this 10-year-old boy was a bit despondent.

Not for the first (or last) time in my life, my Dad said “Don't be so daft – that means Derek Temple is still the last fella to score at Wembley”.

Les Callan
12 Posted 16/03/2024 at 21:20:15
Charles @2.

Yes they did, and both the FA Cup and League trophies were there as well. Don't think that will ever be repeated.

Dave Carruthers
13 Posted 17/03/2024 at 10:33:53
Loved this Ben, and brought back many memories for all us who would love the nostalgia of the 60’s to return - or even a small proportion of what the two great teams of that decade delivered.
I was also lucky to attend the Hungary vs Brazil game. You forget how strange it was to see these legends on our hallowed turf. 1966 was such a tipping point year. Great music, my 11 plus and the year we bought my hero, Alan Ball. It was Aug 16th. As Howard Kendall once said, full marks to the Everton scouting team to unearth the man of the match in the World cup final!!
I’m with Danny about Goodison Park. A big part of me will disappear when they close the doors. The memories will never ever disappear
Joseph Walsh
14 Posted 17/03/2024 at 11:52:33
A lovely read Tom. Thank you for sharing
Ben Kelly
15 Posted 20/03/2024 at 19:59:53
Thanks for all the positive comments about my dad’s article. Particularly intrigued by the handmade gift to Alex Young?! Also for Dave for pointing out the date Everton signed Alan Ball - 16th August is my birthday! (and I’ve got red hair 😂)

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