Charl­ton has gone but it is not too late to hon­our sur­viv­ing he­roes of 1966

Death of World Cup win­ner un­der­lines un­fair­ness of the sys­tem which has left oth­ers with­out proper recog­ni­tion

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football -

Jeremy Wil­son

It was Bri­tish sport’s most cel­e­brated team achieve­ment, and yet recog­ni­tion would be­come an in­di­vid­ual lot­tery. We have Sir Bobby Charl­ton and Sir Ge­off Hurst but, for the other nine Eng­land play­ers who com­bined to win the 1966 World Cup final, there would be a vary­ing wait of up to 33 years for even an MBE.

Jimmy Greaves, the great­est goalscorer in English foot­ball his­tory and a sig­nif­i­cant part of that World Cup-win­ning squad him­self, still re­mains in­ex­pli­ca­bly ig­nored.

Con­trast that with Harry Kane who, within six months of help­ing Eng­land reach the World Cup semi­fi­nals in 2018, could al­ready plan his trip to Buck­ing­ham Palace to col­lect an MBE. Or some of the other sub­se­quent selections for foot­balling hon­ours: Sir Bert Mil­lichip, Sir Dave Richards, Sir Trevor Brook­ing, Gor­don Tay­lor OBE and Ge­off Thomp­son OBE.

That there should be calls for Jack Charl­ton to be posthu­mously knighted fol­low­ing his death on Fri­day is en­tirely un­der­stand­able, but we should be equally con­cerned with un­der­stand­ing how this went un­ad­dressed for 54 years. And, as well as be­lated recog­ni­tion for Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Gor­don Banks, Martin Peters and Ray Wil­son,

who should also be posthu­mously knighted, per­haps we should get on with prop­erly recog­nis­ing those who are still alive.

And we should learn the lessons of 1966, not just in the en­dur­ing spirit that un­der­pinned their suc­cess (the play­ers all still met for a dis­creet an­nual re­union un­til a few years ago) but in how a group of the coun­try’s proud­est he­roes were too of­ten let down in later life.

In trac­ing their in­di­vid­ual sto­ries over re­cent years, there are cer­tain re­cur­ring themes.

The Charl­ton broth­ers, Banks and Roger Hunt re­main the only play­ers to have not sold their World Cup win­ner’s medals and, partly due to fail­ing health, there has been a vast dis­par­ity in those who have been in a po­si­tion to profit com­mer­cially from their tri­umph.

The 22 Eng­land squad play­ers each sim­ply re­ceived a £1,000 bonus for their vic­tory and would later work in pro­fes­sions that ranged from fu­neral di­rect­ing and con­struc­tion to the pub trade and road haulage. They were all well aware that the West Ger­many play­ers who they beat in the final each re­ceived £7,000 and a Mercedes from their as­so­ci­a­tion.

Sir Alf Ram­sey and Moore died long be­fore the stat­ues that now ex­ist at Wem­b­ley were com­mis­sioned and with­out quite seem­ing to know how deeply they were revered. Ram­sey, who was only 54 when he was sacked as Eng­land man­ager and would never take an­other per­ma­nent job in man­age­ment, largely got by on his £75 weekly state pen­sion. When he later needed to move from a gen­eral ward at Ip­swich Hos­pi­tal to a care home while suf­fer­ing with cancer and de­men­tia,

Broth­ers in arms: Jack and Bobby Charl­ton won the World Cup but only one was knighted the costs were funded by his wife’s sav­ings. “Bro­ken,” was how she de­scribed him and she never moved from their home in Ip­swich be­fore her death two years ago.

Moore, the World Cup-win­ning cap­tain, was fa­mously asked to leave Up­ton Park af­ter ar­riv­ing tick­et­less at a largely empty sta­dium to catch the end of a match and never re­turned to West Ham United as a fan be­fore he died in 1993.

Ray Houghton said on Satur­day that it was “an ab­so­lute dis­grace” that Charl­ton was never knighted and, in a series of in­ter­views with The Tele­graph in 2018, it was clear that greater recog­ni­tion would have meant much over the years to the fam­i­lies. John Charl­ton, Jack’s son, said that Hurst was a “lovely fella” but that in­di­vid­ual play­ers should never have been sin­gled out. “He couldn’t have done what he did with­out the oth­ers,” he said. “The pow­ers-that-be ob­vi­ously de­cided they weren’t worth it and they are get­ting older and older now. They are get­ting less and less.”

Banks, who died last year, also said in 2018 that he had been “very, very dis­ap­pointed” with the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and ex­pressed hope that the cur­rent Eng­land team would feel more ap­pre­ci­ated.

The great frus­tra­tion is that it is still not too late for cer­tain anom­alies to be righted. An hon­our for Greaves is per­haps the most ob­vi­ous start­ing point. The Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers’ As­so­ci­a­tion should also be di­vert­ing far more of its vast re­sources to­wards its benev­o­lent fund for for­mer play­ers.

An acute care cri­sis has long been silently un­fold­ing be­hind closed doors. That was high­lighted through­out the 50th an­niver­sary year for the 1966 team when the over­rid­ing mem­ory was not cel­e­bra­tory but sad­ness at the ex­tent to which ill­ness – es­pe­cially neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease – had cur­tailed many of their lives. These were men gen­er­ally in their mid-seven­ties who could have re­al­is­ti­cally hoped for plenty more good health. Charl­ton was him­self suf­fer­ing with se­vere mem­ory prob­lems by that time while Wil­son and Martin Peters have both since died af­ter liv­ing for many years with de­men­tia.

Nobby Stiles also re­mains se­ri­ously ill with the dis­ease.

And so, yes, the pass­ing of a leg­end such as Jack Charl­ton is a time for happy mem­o­ries and joy­ous re­flec­tions of a great life lived. But, as Eng­land’s finest team grad­u­ally leaves us, the story of 1966 should also prompt deeper re­flec­tions on the price we ask our he­roes to pay and what is left when the spot­light moves on.

Jack Charl­ton al­ways said the most joy­ous mo­ment of his play­ing ca­reer was not the 1966 World Cup, but win­ning the league ti­tle with Leeds United. And to watch the

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