Book Review: 66: The World Cup in Real Time by Ian Passingham
30 July 2016 will mark fifty years since England captain Bobby Moore raised aloft the World Cup at Wembley after a 4-2 victory over West Germany in the Final.
On the one hand it should be a time for celebration and acknowledgment of the achievement of Sir Alf Ramsey and his squad, but on the other it will be a harsh reminder of England’s lack of success in international football since that time.
There will no doubt be various books, magazines, television and radio programmes given over to the tournament during 2016; indeed Sky gave the 1966 Final the Monday Night Football treatment at the start of the year.
In 66: The World Cup in Real Time, Ian Passingham offers a different take on the eighth World Cup Finals and in the Introduction sets out how he believes his book will be different:
“Of the many accounts written about 1966, most have centred almost exclusively on England and have drawn to some degree on recollections of the tournament which, inevitably are coloured and sometimes distorted by hindsight.
This book sets out to bring back to life the whole tournament, as if it were being played and reported on today with all the action, reaction, news and gossip from all 16 competing nations.”
In terms of content, the book covers a range of supportive material to the tournament. A Prelude is presented in two parts, of which the first looks at the history of the England team from 1872 to 1962 and the second from the time Sir Alf Ramsey became England manager in 1963 up to the eve of the 1966 competition.
There then follows the major part of the book which focuses on a real time look at the tournament (both matchdays and rest days) as well as The Aftermath in two parts. The first of these focuses on Sir Alf Ramsey, whilst the second details what happened to some of the key personnel, players and teams who took part in the Finals.
The book closes with a very useful Appendix which shows how the squad for the Finals evolved from Ramsey’s first game in charge against France on 27 February 1963 and a few photographs from the tournament.
There are some great images produced in this final section of the book, however, the placing of them at the very end seems a slightly curious choice and might have had a better impact placed alongside the real time events they related to.
Of the main part of the book and the concept of real time coverage, Passingham has to be praised for the research carried out in collating and piecing together interviews and articles of the day to give the reader an, at times, amusing but overall informative insight of events on and off the pitch.
Indeed there are numerous gems to be found within the book which show how different times were and especially in how the World Cup Finals were organised. Amongst them is the fact that match officials stayed in local B&B’s during the tournament, reflecting that the facilities for the competing teams were at best ordinary and a lifetime away from the amenities that players enjoyed and expected in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
If some things have changed in the fifty years since the Finals, then some haven’t. Passingham shows that the cliché-ridden soundbites of players and managers were the same then as they are now, as they talked up their chances and criticised refereeing standards.
However, these real time snippets by their very nature mean that any real flow to the book is difficult to achieve and is therefore best read on a ‘pick-up, put-down’ basis.
Nonetheless, this is an interesting addition to the story the 1966 World Cup Finals that will offer a wider look at the teams who took part and the events that led to England’s finest footballing hour.