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The England 1966 team and Irish football connection…

So Geoff Hurst, Bobby Charlton, Bobby’s Brother Jack & Gordon Banks.

No prizes for guessing something they have in common. Can you name the two things though?

Obviously these men played in the team that won the 1966 World Cup at Wembley. The anniversary of that win is coming up and there is renewed interest in it with the release recently of the documentary film ‘’Bo66y’’ [clever the way they put 6’s in for B’s in the title!].

A lesser-known connection between the above is their link with Irish soccer. Hurst, hat-trick hero in the World Cup final against West Germany in 1966 [‘’some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over – it is now!’’], played three games with Cork Celtic at the end of his career in 1976. World-cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks played – just once – for St Patrick’s Athletic in 1977 [on loan from Fort Lauderdale Strikers]. And Bobby Charlton turned out three times [scoring once] for Waterford United in 1976. Jack’s links with Irish soccer need no explanation.

Obviously these players were past their best when they laced up their boots on these shores. More than likely they were cashing in on their fame to secure a final payday before those same boots were hung up for good [the clubs that brought them over were cashing in too – what better way to secure a big gate than to have a World Cup winner playing]. The presence of players of this calibre in our league at that time [there were many others from that general era] reveals a lot both about our league at the time and also about the way players were treated in England at the time, even big names like Banks, Hurst and the Charlton’s.

The League of Ireland was in decline in the 1970’s, having enjoyed a heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Bringing over a crowd-pulling player was probably done in the hope that the extra fans they pulled in would stay after their stint was over. That never worked, unfortunately.

Why did such players come over? Money.

But why did they need the money? These guys had won the World Cup, yet they had to hustle for some extra cash. You have to remember this was an era when players were payed wages not too far removed from what the average worker earned. The days when players’ wages would take off into the stratosphere were a long way off. A lot of players from that era ended up in hardship, with their savings gone and no other skills or qualification to fall back on. Bobby Moore, captain of the 1966 side and the subject of the documentary film mentioned at the outset, is a case in point. He lost all his money and had to take jobs in non-league and lower-league football to make ends meet [Oxford City, Southend United]. No way to treat heroes.

Last word has to go to Jack Charlton.

A hero in 1966 in England and a hero in Ireland from 1986 to 1996.

Brian Quigley


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