1966, Sir Bobby And All That
Monday’s funeral for Bobby Charlton is giving the Wolves ‘family’ good reason to count their blessings.
The recent death of one of England’s finest ever footballers means Geoff Hurst is now the only survivor from the side who famously won the World Cup on July 30 the small matter of 57 years ago.
But a look back through the Molineux record books reminds us that the Wolves squad of the time is still largely intact.
From the club’s last game before the tournament – a 5-2 defeat at Ipswich some two months prior to England and Uruguay grinding out a 0-0 draw in their opening group match at Wembley – no fewer than seven players are still alive.
Of the 12 on duty at Portman Road, only Dave MacLaren, Bobby Thomson, Graham Hawkins, Ron Flowers and Ernie Hunt have passed away.
And even if we go back a further two years to the 4-0 win at Bolton on the last day of 1963-64, we see that, happily, more than half of that side are still among us.
They are Dave Woodfield, Bobby Woodruff, Peter Knowles, Hugh McIlmoyle, Jimmy Melia and Dick Le Flem, with Fred Davies, George Showell, Bobby Thomson, Ron Flowers and Chris Crowe having also lined up at Burnden Park.
The full line-up at Ipswich in the final Second Division fixture of 1965-66 read: Dave MACLAREN, Dave WOODFIELD, Bobby THOMSON, Mike BAILEY, Graham HAWKINS, Ron FLOWERS, Terry WHARTON, Ernie HUNT, Hugh MCILMOYLE, Peter KNOWLES, Paddy BUCKLEY. Ken KNIGHTON went on for Thomson.
It has been stated before that life didn’t always run smoothly, especially in the football sense, for those red-shirted heroes who defeated West Germany.
The immediate inference from the rapid diminishing of their numbers is that it didn’t run long enough either.
But there is one important comparison that we should highlight. Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup final winners had an average age on July 30, 1966, of just over 26 – more than two years older per player than the Wolves side who appeared against Ipswich at Portman Road.
The funeral of Bobby Charlton, who died three Saturdays ago aged 86, takes place at Manchester Cathedral on Monday afternoon, with the cortege first passing Old Trafford.