Grieving this week of the death of Harry Gregg, I noticed that I was thinking of Sir Bobby Charlton and in turn of the 1966 World Cup Final.
Charlton is now the only survivor of the 1958 Munich disaster that is still with us. As such, we have more reason than ever to cherish him as enthusiastically as at Manchester United. A bigger ambassador for his club and his sport has never been there.
As far as the 1966 final is concerned, it is worth looking again, not only to see Charlton’s biggest role in it, but also for a bit of what it tells us about football and now football.
There is no greater ambassador for the sport and Manchester United than Sir Bobby Charlton
It is actually quite difficult to get a copy of the entire game. It is not on the internet. The best thing I could do when we celebrated four years 50 years ago was to buy a BBC DVD with the very extensive highlights.
It contains the vast majority of the game and is worth the effort. It is enlightening to see the most glorious sports afternoon in England from half a century.
Charlton is certainly beautiful on the images – especially during the first hour. On a poor, heavy field, he is the best passer-by, in terms of vision and execution, for a mile.
Franz Beckenbauer, the rising star of German football at the age of 20, is completely anonymous in comparison. Both English backs, George Cohen and Ray Wilson, are poor.
Veterans of that game have always said that Alan Ball was the man of the match, and in the course of the 120 minutes that are on each other today. While others get tired around him, Ball continues metronomically. It is a huge effort from one of the most selfless players we have known.
It’s worth re-viewing the 1966 World Cup Final to enjoy the ultimate Sir Bobby show
But a somewhat more uncomfortable truth is that in terms of technical skill, speed and athletics, the final is a considerably different spectacle compared to much of what we see today. Despite the drama, much of the actual football is not impressive.
Both teams certainly seem to be hampered by the failure of the surface to cope with the 24-hour rain that preceded the match.
More than 50 years ago, the standard of the player boots and the ball itself was in favor of nobody.
Yet it is difficult to ignore the number of rather hopeful, long balls on both sides, the consistent inability to fit accurately over longer distances and the way in which corner kicks are simply thrown aimlessly into the penalty area. If this sounds a bit sacrilege, buy a copy of the DVD and see for yourself.
But the final is a completely different spectacle compared to much of what we see today
Comparing eras is very difficult and some may say it is useless. Who says that – blessed with the facilities, conditioning and medicines that are now available – the big players of yesterday would not have been the big players of today? The will of Charlton and Ball would flourish in any age. They were also tactically freer then and that must have been a blessing.
Nevertheless, if we ever doubt the standards that we have today, a good retrospective of history can be useful. In general, we are really lucky even if our weekly episodes of Premier League promotion continue to be cursed by the scrapping ball they call VAR.
Now there is a thought: VAR at the 1966 World Cup final. They would never have finished the game in daylight.
The bad news is that Michel Platini has not disappeared. The four-year ban of the former UEFA president accepting a £ 1.35 million payment from Sepp Blatter in 2011 has now expired and Platini tells The Times that he is monitoring the presidency of the players’ union, Fifpro.
One day Fifpro can get a place on the board at UEFA and FIFA, meaning Platini would be back where he would never be tolerated again – in the middle of it.
How desperately depressing.
Disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini is monitoring Fifpro’s presidency
Burnley’s season was the last to be repeated. Scroll in the direction of problems and win a series of games to get out again.
This time it’s victories against Southampton, Leicester, Manchester United, Bournemouth and a draw against Arsenal. Last season it was Wolves, Bournemouth, Cardiff and a draw in Chelsea.
They were lucky this weekend, but manager Sean Dyche has the ability to sink players when he really needs them and it is a precious gift.
The question is: when will someone at a larger Premier League club realize that he has it?
The question remains whether large clubs recognize the ability of Sean Dyche to electroplate its players
Those who praise Diego Simeone so quickly for his abilities as a defensive coach tend to overlook one thing. His Atletico Madrid are a terribly dirty side and they also cheat.
Watching how they defeated Liverpool last week reminded me of the way they played when they were so close to Real Madrid in the Champions League 2014 final.
That night in Lisbon, Gareth Bale and Angel di Maria were kicked so regularly and mercilessly by the Simeone fight team, it was a miracle that they were still standing when extra time was played.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid is a terribly dirty side and is also known for cheating
Of the 10 outfield players who started for Atletico, seven were booked.
Simeone can certainly coach and has found a way to infiltrate the Barcelona-Real duopoly in La Liga. It is this that will inevitably lead to a move to a club in the Premier League.
But when he arrives here, we know what he will take with him, and not many of them will be beautiful.