Then Watford reached the FA Cup quarter-final and I suddenly realised there was a proper club right near where I lived. Dad wouldn’t take me to the Liverpool game, but I read in the paper the next day that Watford had won and would play Chelsea in the semi-final. That was the first game I ever listened to on the radio, and it set a painful precedent (fleeting hope, swiftly replaced by despair) that has been repeated many times since.
But by the end of the 1969-70 season, I still hadn’t actually seen a live game of football, either in person or on TV. The former would have to wait for the autumn, but in the meantime there was the World Cup in Mexico. I watched England’s group games in all their technicolor glory, not fully understanding what was going on but gripped nevertheless.
Then came the quarter-final against West Germany. It was great – England were 2-0 up at half-time, and to my eight-year-old mind, nothing could possibly go wrong. Of course, it did, horribly so. Alf Ramsey took Bobby Charlton off to rest him for the semi-final, substitute keeper Peter Bonetti had a mare (Gordon Banks having succumbed to food poisoning), and the Germans won 3-2 after extra time. And thus was established a pattern that’s been repeating itself ever since, with subtle variations each time.
So forgive me if I can’t get too worked up over England’s latest debacle against the Germans. I’ve seen it all before.