17th October 2016
World Cup winner George Cohen credits the Wembley pitch for famous ’66 win during talk with UCFB students
July marked the 50th anniversary of England’s famous World Cup victory over West Germany under the Twin Towers of the old Wembley Stadium.
Celebration events took place in and around the new Wembley, home of UCFB Wembley, to mark the occasion and many reminisced on that glorious summer evening in 1966, wondering if England will ever sit on top of the world again. Painfully, the anniversary came just weeks after England were knocked out of Euro 2016 by minnows Iceland.
But what many don’t know about that famous summer, when TV was black and white and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, is that the Wembley turf “was like no other pitch in the world”, according to England’s World Cup winning right back George Cohen.
Cohen, who is regularly named as England’s greatest ever right back, gave students at UCFB Wembley a unique insight into the pitch at the 1966 World Cup during his talk at the Executive Guest Speaker Session.
As well as talking students through the most famous 120 minutes in English football history, Cohen told stories of his time at Fulham, his tragic career ending injury aged just 29 and his life post-football which has included working in property and receiving a long overdue MBE with other members of the ’66 team.
Reflecting on the tournament, Cohen said England playing every game at Wembley was “a bit of luck”, but one the players were happy to take. “You play to win, that was our attitude”, he said.
Looking back, Cohen said: “The pitch at Wembley at the time was like no other in the world. It was spongy and had more tufts of grass per square inch than any other pitch I’ve ever seen. The ball would come off that grass a yard or yard and a half faster than anywhere else. You were going a yard slower and the ball was going a yard faster!”
He added: “It wasn’t easy for the opposition who were not used to it, the Germans certainly didn’t understand it. So we were at an advantage, if you like, that we were playing at home. That’s fine, I’ll take every advantage you’ve got!”
Away from the World Cup and taking his glorious playing career on the pitch and applying it to matters off, Cohen gave UCFB students some parting words to take into their future careers after graduation.
He said: “You have to listen to the advice you’re given. If you can’t listen to the advice, then don’t play the game. You’ve got to know how to have discipline, and I think that’s in every walk of life.”