A MUCH-REVERED former colleague on The Sun used to boom out his favourite mantra at every World Cup: “When’s the parade?”
It was a mocking reference to the eternal optimism many of the press pack had — me included — that England were going to win it and our gallant heroes would return in triumph, touring the streets of London on an open-top bus as hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans lined the pavements.
GettyEngland’s 1966 World Cup win feels increasingly distant[/caption]
GettyThe Three Lions lost to France in devastating fashion on Saturday[/caption]
Any time England put in a sub-standard performance during a tournament, he would be at it: “When’s the parade?”
And, of course, once England went out he repeated it again, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing look which said, ‘You lot will never learn’.
Nothing would have given me greater pleasure in life than to have sent him a text this coming Sunday which read: “See you at the parade.”
That song from the 1982 World Cup squad had been ringing in my ears.
You know the one: “This time, more than any other time, this time, we’ll get it right.”
More than ever before it really felt like it would happen.
This England had all the ingredients — better strength in depth than any other squad, an array of attacking talent rival countries could only dream of, players worth £100million-plus who were admired worldwide and a manager with the experience of coming so close to glory, who was ready to take the Three Lions that one final step.
The longer the World Cup progressed, the prize was within our grasp.
Germany were out, Belgium were out, Brazil were out and, when Portugal lost to Morocco and the Africans became our potential semi-final opponents, our name was all but on the golden trophy.
And yes, one of our number did make calls to the relevant authorities to ask whether arrangements had been made for the parade.
But, of course, it never works out does it.
England lack that magic ingredient, the killer instinct which gets us over the finish line, the X-factor of knowing how to win the biggest prize.
Reigning world champions France had that, despite the fact England probably had the better team.
Getting the first one for more than half a century is the hardest one of all.
GettyFrance’s extra experience told on Saturday[/caption]
We did it in 1966 and the names of that famous team have been burned into my brain all my life.
To meet some of them and, at times, work with them was always special. They had done it, they’d beaten the world yet they were always so humble about it.
That was partly because they were cast aside by the FA and the country generally. There were no big-money punditry jobs in those days.
They had to scrap for a living like everyone else.
On a previous paper I gave hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst a column during Euro 96.
He was surprised to get the offer as it was 30 years since his famous feat and he had carved out a new career as an insurance salesman.
I travelled with Sir Bobby Charlton a few times as he traipsed his way round the globe trying to win our bid to stage the 2006 World Cup.
It wasn’t a case of turning up at a few glamour events, he worked himself into the ground, on a hamster wheel which got ever faster as we forlornly tried to earn votes from corrupt Fifa executives.
GettyGeoff Hurst has been a great ambassador for English football[/caption]
He didn’t complain, he felt it was his duty. But no sooner had we lost the bid, the FA forgot about him again.
I met our World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore at Wembley and he introduced himself to me!
He never presumed people would knew who he was.
His job then was as a summariser for London radio station, Capital.
He was grateful for the work after some failed business ventures and there is a famous picture of him huddled up against the cold in the press box just days before he died of cancer.
Moore was sitting only a few yards from where he stopped to wipe his hands before receiving the World Cup from the Queen.
He passed long before the FA woke up and realised it was time we treated the 1966 squad with the deference they were due and Hurst has been a marvellous ambassador for that team.
But even he realises the time is long overdue to pass the baton on to a fresh generation of winners.
We desperately need new images to replace those fading black and white photos of a team which for many of us exists not in our memories but in those of our parents and grandparents.
And had England succeeded you can bet none of this squad would have become insurance salesmen, local radio commentators or been flogged into the ground taking round the begging bowl to bloated nobodies.
Only Charlton and Hurst from that ’66 team were knighted but not until 1994 and 1998 respectively.
Had England won this one, it would have been knighthoods all round and a lifetime of permanent adoration.
Arise, Sir Jude Bellingham, would have had a lovely ring to it.
IVANA GET DRESSED
THANKS to Croatian ‘super-fan’ Ivana Knoll for clarifying that, despite reports, she will not be stripping naked if her country wins the World Cup.
Ivana confessed that, before arriving in Qatar, she was not aware of the rules about dressing modestly and that she didn’t actually have the clothes with her to cover everything.
Fair play to her, she’s now doing her bit to fall in line… and has covered her shoulders !
SplashIvana Knoll has caused a stir at the World Cup[/caption]
FIGHTING THE LLOR
EVEN the French laughed at The Sun posting pictures of our players all over Paris ahead of the quarter-final.
Good to see that they had a sense of humour — and, anyway, they got the last laugh following their 2-1 win.
One man without a sense of humour before the big match was Tottenham and France skipper Hugo Lloris, who was steaming mad about suggestions in the English press that he was one of the weakest links in the French team.
He joined in with the last laugh, too.
GettyHugo Lloris had the last laugh on Saturday[/caption]
QAT OUT THE BAG
GOT chatting to a waiter in Doha who explained how he had come to the World Cup on a two-month contract for the princely sum of 5,000 riyals.
That’s £560 a month to you and me, or £125 a week for a nine-week contract. Or, if you like, £18 a day.
He told me he lived in a compound, four men to a small room, and all he did was work and sleep. “Now,” he said, “I want to get a job here!”
Sorry, what was that?
“Yes, I come from Lebanon and my country is destroyed. Here there are opportunities.”
Never have I been so lost for words.