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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Shades of '66
Jack CharltonGeorge CohenAlan BallMartin PetersNobby Stiles

By Chris Charles

As the Ashes fever gripping the nation builds to a crescendo, comparisons with the 1966 World Cup final have been unavoidable.

England's Steve Harmison said recently: "If we can win, people are saying it'll be like '66 and I hope that's the case."

Former all-rounder Ian Botham agreed and Jonathan Agnew wrote in his latest column for BBC Sport: "The Oval is gearing itself up for the most eagerly anticipated sporting occasion here since England won the World Cup."

But what do the heroes of yesteryear think? We asked five members of the team that beat Germany at Wembley 39 years ago to give us their views.


JACK CHARLTON - CENTRE-BACK

Jack Charlton
Someone on TV said this series was the most exciting event in England since '66 and I think everyone's picked up on that.

It seems to have crept into the general public's mood, as well as the people who normally follow cricket.

We always get excited as a country when we start doing well, but we've got to be in with a chance of winning for anyone who doesn't follow the sport to get excited about it.

I don't know very much about cricket myself, but I've sat and watched it like everyone else.

Australia have been the best team in the world for so long but England are suddenly starting to look like they might regain the Ashes, which would be an amazing achievement.

I've never been so nervous as when I was watching that last match. Every minute I was thinking 'someone's going to get another wicket' - and they did!

I've thoroughly enjoyed watching it and I think that goes for a lot of people in the country who aren't normally that bothered about cricket.

As for the comparisons - if people are still sitting around in 40 years' time talking about England v Australia at The Oval then we can say it was as big an event as the 1966 World Cup.

It amazes me that people still talk about it all these years later.


GEORGE COHEN - RIGHT-BACK

George Cohen
It's been very gripping, compulsive watching. Whether or not England can sustain it at The Oval is another thing, but whatever happens, it's going to be the most exciting cricket match ever.

Terrific as it has been, I can't bring myself to think this Ashes series is as big as the World Cup. But certainly it's been the most thrilling thing that's happened to us since that time.

We need to at least get a draw - so I suppose we could take it slowly and hope for rain! But it would be much better to get the win so we can say we've beaten them fair and square.

We're three weeks into the football season and the buzz is still all about the cricket but the problem is keeping that alive.

It's like the Rugby World Cup - the whole country seemed to be up for watching it when we beat Australia in the final, but now it's starting to fade again - much as I'd like to keep it alive because of my nephew, Ben Cohen, who played in that game.

Having been to that particular final in Sydney I realised it was going to be a long time before the Australians forgave us for beating them on their own ground. Now we could be taking the Ashes off them and it's rankling with them, no doubt about that.

The only good news they've had in the past couple of years is that they actually beat our national team at football, which still rankles with me!

It's always nice to get one over the Aussies. My neighbour's an Australian and I beat him at golf in a foursome the other day - although I have to say he took it very well!


ALAN BALL - RIGHT MIDFIELD

Alan Ball
It's fantastic for the country. The England team have created a real feel-good factor, which is brilliant.

The mood is very similar to how it was back in 1966. People are proud of the lads for what they're doing and there's a great sense of well-being.

I've been watching the whole series on TV, glued to the set like everybody else.

England look to be a team that are very together and that's important in any team sport.

We've got every chance of winning the Ashes, having gone 2-1 up, but in many ways the final Test at The Oval is going to be the hardest of the lot.

If you compare the two, I think World Cup football is always going to be bigger than cricket, but the Aussies have been the greatest side in the world for many years and it has been terrific to finally be able to take them on.

If England can go on and win the Ashes back it will be tremendous for the country.


MARTIN PETERS - LEFT MIDFIELD

Martin Peters
There's no doubt this is the biggest sporting occasion in England since the 1966 World Cup final.

The atmosphere across the country is very similar to '66 and the support has been phenomenal, but I don't think it's quite as big - simply because there are more football fans than cricket fans.

The other thing is, they're only playing one team, whereas we played a few different nations.

But they've certainly got the country up and running and all manner of people are now watching cricket and getting involved.

It's been good fun to watch, but apart from the first Test, the games have been so close that it becomes very nerve-wracking. My heart was pounding the other week at Trent Bridge, I can tell you!

The great thing is it's a team effort, just like '66. There have been some fantastic performances from the whole team and that is the key. Everyone is playing for each other and it shows.

Now they've got to do it all again at The Oval. The Aussies won't just lie down and let the Ashes be taken from them. If I was Michael Vaughan, I'd pick 11 batsmen and play for the draw!


NOBBY STILES - CENTRE MIDFIELD

Nobby Stiles
I think it's definitely the biggest sporting occasion over here since 1966 and the buzz around the country is very similar to what we experienced.

I love cricket anyway - I used to go down to watch Lancashire as a lad - but this series has been tremendous. To be honest I've been gobsmacked by it all.

The competition with the Aussies has been brilliant - they remind me of the Germans, who were a good set of lads. It's not just about winning, you've got to be able to lose as well.

England play together as a team and they've got a great captain in Michael Vaughan, the way we had with Bobby Moore.

It's a great all-round team effort and everyone is playing for each other. That was the thing about '66 - The team spirit we had throughout the squad was fantastic.

Before the tournament started we felt we could win the World Cup, but with Alf Ramsey it was would, not could. I think this England team have the same ideals instilled in them by Duncan Fletcher.

There's lots of similarities between the two sides. We fell behind in the final and had to come back against the Germans, and just like us, they're going down to the wire. We don't like to make it easy for the supporters!

The squad from '66 still get together from time to time. Hopefully the next time we meet up we can celebrate another England success. Whatever happens I can truly say I'm proud to be an Englishman.



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