In 1966 England lost the World Cup, not as history tells us in terms of the Final in which they overcame West Germany 4-2, but the Jules Rimet Trophy itself.
World football’s ultimate prize had been on display at Westminster Central Hall, when it was stolen on 20 March 1966. Thankfully for the Football Association (FA), the trophy was recovered just seven days later when David Corbett and his dog Pickles discovered the trophy under a hedge in South East London. During the period when the trophy was missing the FA Chairman of the time, Joe Mears, received an anonymous call demanding a ransom for its safe return.
The mystery as to who took the trophy and how it came to be then discarded was never resolved.
However, in Chasing the Game, Paul Gadsby provides a fictional account of the events around the robbery and the subsequent recovery of the trophy. As such the football element is only a minor thread in a book which is essentially a crime thriller.
Gadsby provides an atmospheric depiction of London in the 1960s, where gangster Dale Blake is battling with discontentment amongst the ranks and an unhappy home-life. The theft of the trophy and the hoped for ransom money are seen by Dale as a way to sort out the problems he is encountering in his life.
This is a read which is in parts gritty as it explores the murky underworld of gangsters, but which also has a softer side as it explores through the central character Dale a number of areas including family relationships, leadership, power and respect.
Speculation will continue as to what actually happened during that period in March 1966 when the Jules Rimet Trophy went missing – although in all probability the exact details may never come to light. Nevertheless, Gadsby provides an entertaining and well-paced read in relation to a fictional exploration of the events in London before England’s finest footballing hour.