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World Cup 1966 in Roker Park

By Peter Playle
From Washington

Hungary v Russia at Roker Park
Tell us your memories of Roker Park in 1966. E-mail: wear@bbc.co.uk

Peter Playle, from Washington, remembers when the World Cup came to Sunderland in 1966. He went to every single match but was left feeling a little disheartened.

If you have memories of the World Cup coming to Sunderland, let us know by e-mail: wear@bbc.co.uk

Peter's story:

The World Cup games at Roker Park were for me disappointing.

My first visit to Roker Park was with my dad, a miner at Boldon Colliery, it was towards the end of the 1957 relegation season and the opposition was Manchester United.

The crowd was massive and very vocal; the whole atmosphere was electric and sparked off what was to become a lifetime passion.

I cannot recall what the final score was but what made a lasting impression was the magic dribbling of Manchester's Ernie Taylor.

In the years following many memorable games and moments were experienced at Roker Park, thinking about some of them now still makes the hairs on the back of my neck curl, however few of those moments are from the world cup games of 1966.

Replacing the clock

In my early teens I had two hobbies - football and train-spotting.

It was through the latter that I first became aware that the World Cup was coming to Sunderland.

Sunderland railway station was a regular haunt and notices went up around the stations entrances announcing modifications in preparation for the forthcoming World Cup.

Keeper saves shot
Italian keeper Enrico Albertosi saves. Final score: Soviet Union 1-0 Italy.

Arguably the improvements did little to improve the image for first time visitors and little has changed since.

Roker Park itself was improved with little impact for the majority of supporter.

I can vividly recall the construction of the Fulwell End roof and the row upon row of empty seats under it during the actual World Cup games, the seats immediately disappeared after the quarter-final game.

One thing that did cause a ripple of disagreement from the Sunderland fans at the time was the removal of the clock from the clock stand roof to make way for the TV gantry.

The club assured everyone it would be replaced, however, the somewhat austere replacement was a disappointment and not worthy to commemorate the clubs last really glory years of 1936 and 1937.

Welcome banner

After the event I didn't think it had been money well spent, I should have kept it for my holiday at Butlins in Skegness
Peter Playle

Generally the build up to the world cup was low key.

With little publicity in the national press and even less on the two TV channels available at the time, the general public showed little interest.

One or two shops put on window displays, national flags of the visiting teams started appearing around the town centre particularly in Fawcett Street, the heart of the town at the time, and a big welcome banner was draped across Wearmouth Bridge.

The games themselves were scheduled to be played mid-July and initially I was not inclined to attend because the ticket prices were quite high and I was saving for my forthcoming holidays.

I was serving my apprenticeship at the giant Reyrolles Hebburn Engineering plant working for a fitter called Billy Hastings who was former football league referee.

Italians in training at Roker Park
Italian team preparing for their match against Chile on 13 July 1966.

He talked me into buying tickets, I seem to recall there was some sort of deal if you bought a four match pack through the Durham County Referees association.

After the event I didn't think it had been money well spent, I should have kept it for my holiday at Butlins in Skegness.

As the games approached the Sunderland Echo ran features on the teams which did whet my appetite a little.

Settling scores

The teams due to play at Sunderland were not among the favourites. However, the first match brought together Italy and Chile, apparently the previous 1962 World Cup encounter between these two was a bit of a bloodbath and some old scores were to be settled.

The game passed without incident.

I went to it straight from work; the match was on a Wednesday night. Making my way around to the Roker End for my first ever visit to that massive concrete construction, it was an impressive sight indeed.

The rear wall had been adorned with flagpoles and flags of all the competing nations and one massive FIFA flag dominating!

Few facilities were available inside the ground, there was the usual fight to get to the counter for a pie and cup of Bovril.

One noticeable difference from normal match days was the pie was served up in a paper bag with the World Cup flag motif on it and World Cup Willey was on the paper cup.

Making an impression

Giacinto Fachetti heads the ball
Italy's Giacinto Fachetti heads clear from Soviet Union's Igor Chislenko.

The ground was only half full and the atmosphere was more akin to a pre-season friendly.

The only noticeable visiting supporters were a clutch of Italian supporters in the main stand paddock, they were decked out in national flags and colourful umbrellas and did create a little bit of noise.

Italy scored early in the game and then sat back to do what they did best in those days - defend, they did venture forward again late in the game and got a second, but I left the ground unimpressed with World Cup football.

The second game was the following Saturday, the mighty Russians were to take on the dour Italians.

The popular veteran legendary Russian keeper was to make an appearance and with Echo advised us all the watch out for the skilful Igor Chislenko. I trundled along with a couple of mates looking forward for an exciting afternoon.

It was a miserable game, however, Chislenko did not disappoint and made quite an impression, he scored the only goal mid-way through the second half.

There was a slightly bigger crowd for this game but once again the stadium was devoid of the atmosphere we so much enjoyed whilst watching Sunderland games.

I remember the third game as being the most entertaining but it was disappointing to learn that Chislenko would not be taking part. Russia won with a goal late in the game.

Russia won the group and for a while it looked like Brazil could be their opponents in the quarter final.

The prospect of Brazil with the likes of Pele coming to Roker did steer up some interest, however, Brazil, who had had a torrid time throughout, missed out finishing below Hungary to prematurely leave the tournament.

Ripples around Wearside

Man being taken off the pitch on a stretcher
Chile's Armando Tobar is taken off on a stretcher. Final score: Italy 2-0 Chile.

The group games at Roker appeared to be ignored by the national media. Little being reported in the national press or on TV, all attention was being giving to the minnows from Korea who were performing heroics down at Ayesome Park.

During the build-up to the quarter-final the TV crew did a spot on the game featuring the skills of my favorite Chislenko and goal-scoring prowess of Hungarian Bene.

I do not remember much of the actual game, Chislenko scored very early and Russia did win, I believe Bene did score but he had not made a lasting impression.

As for the group games the match was poorly attended and lacked any real atmosphere.

The World Cup had only caused a few ripples around Wearside I doubt if any lasting benefit resulted from it apart from a roof over my head in my beloved Fulwell End.

As the tournament progressed England's exploits caught the general publics imagination and the nation went wild when we had won the tournament.

If you have any memories of the World Cup coming to Roker Park in 1966, e-mail your story to: wear@bbc.co.uk

See pictures of the games held at Roker Park as part of the World Cup in 1966

More of your memories: 1966 World Cup in Sunderland.

Your memories of World Cup 1966
02 Dec 09 |  History



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