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Down Memory Lane: An immortal line in every sense as England won World Cup

The joyous scenes outside the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, on Saturday July 30, 1966, resembled VE Day in London.

The streets were gridlocked by traffic as thousands welcomed back Sir Alf Ramsey and his “wingless wonders” for the glittering official reception. England were the new world champions.

Those fans couldn’t have cared less about Geoff Hurst’s controversial was-it-over-the-line extra-time goal. Yet this was to be a talking point for eternity in football with demands for the introduction of new technology. “Revenge” came 44 years later when Frank Lampard's shot against the Germans at South Africa 2010 bounced well over the line but was disallowed. And still no technology!

The 1966 final finished 2-2 after 90 minutes, Hurst (18) and Martin Peters (78) scoring for England, Helmut Haller (12) and Wolfgang Weber (89) getting the German goals. Extra-time. The tension made hearts beat faster; an air of expectancy permeated the grand old lady that was Wembley Stadium with its twin towers.

Gripped with fatigue, players sprawled on the grass ahead of the restart. Ramsey, in his blue track suit, told them: “You have won the World Cup once — now go out and do it again. Look at them (the weary Germans) — they’re finished.”

It was a magical psychological touch which bolstered morale and restarted the adrenalin flow.

With 11 minutes of extra-time gone, man-of-the-match, Alan Ball — with every ounce of energy drained from his body — floated a cross into the box. Hurst swivelled and shot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the bar, bounced down on or just over the line and was cleared. Roger Hunt, convinced it was in, wheeled away without attempting to tap it in.

Swiss referee Gottried Dienst, surrounded by Germans, consulted his assistant Tofik Bakhramov from Azerbaijan and awarded the goal.

A study later carried out by the Department of Engineering at Oxford University concluded the whole of the ball did not cross the line; it was six centimetres away from being a goal. It is a dispute which will be never-ending.

A minute before the end and with the score at 3-2 some spectators encroached on to the pitch as Hurst hammered home the fourth goal to complete his hat-trick, the first in a World Cup final.

And it prompted BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, a much-decorated war-time RAF Pathfinder pilot, to produce one of the most famous sayings in sport; “And here comes Hurst. He’s got . . . some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!”

Belfast Telegraph