In the most recent release of ‘What England Means’ fueled by BT, football reporter John Helm takes us through seven decades covering England and clarifies why he has the epithet, Stan. Euro 2020 fans can book England Vs Czech Republic Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
There aren’t many of us left who can or want to, remember the events of 29 June 1950. It was just before my eighth birthday and I was in disbelief as England’s national football team lost a World Cup match to the United States in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The score was 1-0, but so disbelieving were certain newspapers that they printed a 10-1 England victory. As an aside, England would genuinely score ten against the US 14 years later in a 10-0 friendly win.
Little did I know back in 1950 that 64 years later I would be in the same Brazilian city to commentate on England’s 0-0 draw with Costa Rica. Sadly, that wasn’t a particularly fond memory either.
In 1950, I was a just little lad in short pants but my nickname was Stan because I used to dribble a tennis ball to school pretending to be Stanley Matthews. There are people in my local village Baildon, just outside Bradford, who still call me Stan to this day.
It was the incomparable Sir Stan who made me fall in love with both football and England. It has been documented a million times how he inspired Blackpool to a 4-3 FA Cup final victory over Bolton Wanderers in 1953.
I watched the game on my next-door neighbour’s black-and-white telly and from that day forth, like most boys, I wanted to Matthews and to represent the Three Lions.
But by 1966 I knew I wasn’t going to cut it as a professional footballer. We all know what happened that year. Euro 2020 fans can book England Euro Cup Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
I was still in the embryonic stages of my journalistic career, so miles behind in the pecking order to go to Wembley Stadium and cover England winning the World Cup.
Instead, I was busy playing for my local club side in the Bradford Cricket League; but by some miracle, both teams were hustled out for just 26 and the last wicket fell at 1450, ten minutes before the final kicked off!
Having abandoned any dream of playing for my country, by 1974, I was yearning to at least watch England in the flesh. Fortunately, by then I was covering Leeds United matches for BBC local radio and was on first-name terms with Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Allan Clarke, Paul Madeley, Terry Cooper, Paul Reaney and, of course, Don Revie, so my appetite was whetted even further.
Excitement mounted that summer when I was put on standby to go to the World Cup finals in Germany because one of the commentators, who shall remain nameless, had been a ‘naughty boy’ swigging down a few too many lagers. But he decided to toe the line, so I never got the call.
I didn’t have to wait long, though. After moving to BBC headquarters in London, I was appointed as a network football producer, a role that entailed organizing coverage of all England matches at home and abroad. Euro 2020 fans can book the Czech Republic Euro Cup Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
This involved things like sorting out commentary positions for domestic and foreign broadcasters, arranging interviews with managers and players, and even once paying fines for two England players (who shall remain anonymous) for walking through the streets of Bulgaria bare-chested – a ghastly crime!
It was pure ecstasy than when in 1978 I was dispatched to Buenos Aires to cover the draw for that year’s World Cup. I traveled with Bryon Butler, the BBC Radio football correspondent, and Peter Jones, the foremost commentator of his time.
Believe it or not, there were just 12 other journalists in the room. At a rough guess, for the same event in Moscow two years ago, there was probably about 800 present. How times change!
At the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, I recall seeing one commentator’s ‘meticulously’ prepared notes. They were written on the back of his cigarette packet! Even the match day programs for World Cup games back then were pocket-sized.
I’ll also never forget England manager Ron Greenwood, who was working with us during that tournament, hiding in the back of one of our cars as a madman called Horatio took us down the wrong side of a motorway to beat the traffic on the way to the River Plate stadium.
Ron also once berated me for referring to Peter Barnes as a winger – there were no such species in his view.
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