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England reaching final helping me recall memories of 1966 World Cup heroics: Ian Callaghan


Ian Callaghan

Ian Callaghan

Ian Callaghan

LIVERPOOL legend Ian Callaghan will raise a glass to absent friends when he watches England in their first major final in 55 years tonight.

Callaghan is one of just nine survivors from Alf Ramsey’s 22-man squad that won the World Cup in 1966.

The 79-year-old didn’t play in the 4-2 extra-time victory against West Germany at Wembley but did play his part earlier in the tournament.

The Reds’ longest-serving player has waited a long time to see a new generation of England stars end his country’s long wait for success.

“Of course this brings back memories of 1966,” said Callaghan, who played against France in the group stages in 1966. “I will be raising a glass to them and hopefully a celebratory glass to the players who win us Euro 2020.

“The 1966 lads were a close-knit group. We were 22 players always together and even to this day they are always with me. I get a sense this current squad are a bit like that.

“It has been exciting and at times unbelievable. It has caught everyone’s imagination.

“When you consider that we’ve had to endure this Covid thing for so long and there’s not really been any crowds at games until recently, it’s just great to have something like this to look forward to.”

The route to England’s two major finals have been remarkably similar with two wins and a draw in the group stages and clean-sheets all the way to the semi-final.

Callaghan added: “They have got better with every game and that momentum is so important in a tournament. We started off a bit slow in 1966 but we were still winning and that builds your confidence. When you get to this stage, you are just looking forward to it.

“We have not had the greatest of times against the Germans since 1966 so beating them exorcised a few demons.

“The final will be very close, very tight. The Italians never give much away. But this England team believe in themselves and they always said they could get to the final. Now they’ve got the final step - the biggest of all - but they can do it, definitely.

“I just hope it doesn’t go to penalties. I watched Italy win their semi-final and I felt so sorry for Spain’s Dani Olmo who blasted his spot kick over the bar and it’s dreadful he’ll be remembered for that rather than his superb performances at the finals.

“I don’t want that happening to anyone in the final, especially England because none of their players deserve to have that over them.

“Harry Kane showed in the World Cup in 2018 that he can score goals on the big stage and he’s doing it again. He’s an amazing goalscorer and even though he’s not been in some games very much, he comes up with the goods.

“Raheem Sterling has had a very good tournament, but you could go through all the lads and it’s the same. They play as a team, as a squad.”

Callaghan says the build up of anticipation and expectancy has mirrored 1966 but on a much larger scale.

“We were based in London back then but you got a sense of the excitement around the country,” he added. “Everyone is talking about it and it’s all over the television and newspapers. You can’t escape it.

“Before the 1966 final we would pop out to Golders Green without too much fuss and have a look around the clothes shops. It was different times then without social media but just like now we knew everyone was desperate for us to win.”

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