Alan Hubbard

Old codger I may be, but I have always tried to avoid boring the pants off of the younger generation with rheumy-eyed reminisces of how things, and sport in particular, were better in the "good old days" of yesteryear.

Take England's glorious defeat of Germany in the Women's Euro 2020 final, the nation's first major international football trophy for 56 years. It was a praiseworthy occasion and the achievement was phenomenal and highly entertaining, indicating just how much women’s football has progressed since the English lifted a 50-year ban on women playing football professionally.

This came just four years after England’s men beat Germany in the World Cup final, also after extra time.

I do not recall similar lingering hype and hysteria to that which followed the Euro triumph, commendable as it was. While the girls took to the Wembley stage after the final whistle as if they were performing in Saturday Night Fever. A tad OTT?

Also I do not recall a single World Cup winner taking off his shirt as they did the lap of honour, and only one, the toothless and irrepressible Nobby Stiles, did a jig of joy.

While the capacity crowd cheered and clapped, the players were calm and dignified as captain Bobby Moore carefully wiped his hands on his shorts before taking the Jules Rimet Trophy from the Queen.

The cheers continued as he lifted a huge cup, but there was no explosion of fireworks and serenading of the fans by the boys in red. It was the Germans who wore the white strip, but as there was no colour TV then, it was really of no consequence to those watching at home.

Later the England team, all married men by the way, did not dance until dawn but simply sat down to a quiet meal and nightcap with their respective spouses at their Kensington hotel. Outside of which a couple of hundred fans had gathered, but there was no orchestrated knees-up and karaoke in Trafalgar Square where more than 7,000 joined in the noisy celebrations the morning after.

The England team was more than delighted to share their deserved happiness, but I can’t help wondering how taciturn 1966 World Cup manager Alf Ramsey would have reacted had Moore led the lads in an impromptu conga around him as he was giving a televised interview.

Such was the scene when the tactically astute, newly-hired Dutch boss of the England women’s team, mother of two Sarina Wiegman, was interrupted in the middle of a televised media conference by captain Leah Williamson, high-kicking her chorus line in front of her.

England's joy was unbounded, and rightly so. Apparently all team members will receive a bonus of £55,000 ($67,000/€66,000), which is exactly 54 times the amount the England men pocketed from the miserly English Football Association (FA) in 1966. The grossly-underpaid Ramsey settled for a knighthood, similarly bestowed on two of the three survivors of that team, Bobby Charlton and hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst. The only other team member still with us is octogenarian George Cohen.

It was a very different time and team when England last won a major football trophy, in 1966 ©Getty Images
It was a very different time and team when England last won a major football trophy, in 1966 ©Getty Images

Of the rest, Stiles, Jack Charlton and Martin Peters all passed away suffering from dementia, which now afflicts Bobby Charlton too, as did manager Ramsay.

Comparisons are inevitable, and often invidious. But it is interesting to note some similarities between the twin triumphs. In both the Germans claimed that they were robbed, the men by the Soviet linesman who ruled that Hurst's much-debated second goal was valid and the fräuleins being convinced of a handball offence in the England penalty area, which VAR did not confirm even though it did look dodgy.

While the England men can claim that they conquered the world, and not just Europe, the women can point out that in 1966 they defeated only Frans Beckenbauer's West Germany, half of the then-divided nation, as the Berlin Wall was still standing. Not that East Germans were much cop at football.

I am not being curmudgeonly when I say that much as I enjoyed watching the Lionesses roar and romp their way to victory on Sunday (July 31), as a young reporter covering the events of 1966 I still have memories of that wondrous World Cup final lodged indelibly in the mind. As are the 11 names who made it possible to trip so easily off the tongue: Gordon Banks, Cohen, Ray Wilson, Jack Charlton, Stiles, Moore, Alan Ball, Hurst, Bobby Charlton, Roger Hunt, Peters.

Will those of the Class of ‘22, plus the six subs, become as familiar over the next half-century? Unlikely?

Chloe Kelly's winner prompted wild celebrations at Wembley this weekend ©Getty Images
Chloe Kelly's winner prompted wild celebrations at Wembley this weekend ©Getty Images

Of course the real test will come when the Women's Super League kicks off at rather more obscure venues this coming season. How many of that record 87,000 Wembley crowd will turn up to watch Liverpool ladies play Everton?

Hopefully the Lionesses who romped and roared their way to unprecedented glory will have fanned the flames.

One of the many pluses from Sunday's showdown was the total absence of any crowd misbehaviour or foul-mouthed abuse of the opposition. When the German national anthem was played you could hear the proverbial pin drop. Would-be World Cup hooligans please take note.

There is no doubt that women’s football is burgeoning. Both in terms of skill, numbers and appreciation. This is due in part to the formidable Baroness Sue Campbell, former UK sport chief, who now is head of women’s football at the FA.

Interestingly at least seven of the England team are in same-sex relationships, some with each other and one with a member of the German team. In an era when no male international England footballer has come out as gay, no wonder the girls played with Pride.