Attending the 1966 World Cup Final as an 11-year-old schoolboy was an overwhelming experience in every sense, not least because of the high number of goals scored in a match that ultimately resulted in a 4-2 victory for England.
Back in the 1960s, before comfortable all-seater stadiums were the norm, most of the 100,000 or so fans packed into the old Wembley stood on the terraces, which presented an enormous challenge for a small boy like me trying to watch the game.
To make sure I could at least get to see some of the action, I brought a small camping stool with a plank of wood to stand on so I could see over the shoulders of the burly fans around me.
The only problem with this – so I thought – ingenious arrangement was that every time a goal was scored the crowd surged forward, sending me and my makeshift viewing platform clattering to the ground.
As a consequence, I spent a great deal of the early phases of the game trying to retrieve the various components of my contraption to continue watching, only for the whole arrangement to collapse again as the crowd celebrated – or despaired when it involved Germany – every time the ball hit the back of the net.
Germany goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski looks round as the ball passes him during the 1966 World Cup final
Another vivid memory of the early stages was my confusion when German striker Helmut Haller scored the first goal.
I’d previously watched England at other games as they’d progressed through the tournament, when they had worn their traditional white strip. But for the final England were wearing their red away strip, with Germany in white – so when the Germans opened the scoring I let out a shrill cheer, only to be roundly admonished in the working-class vernacular of the England fans around me.
Nevertheless, my abiding memory of the day remains the immense sense of excitement that filled the crowd at the prospect of England fulfilling their destiny and winning the Jules Rimet Trophy. Wearing my World Cup Willie rosette, an image of the Union Jack adorned by a plastic replica of the trophy, I enthusiastically joined in the raucous singing that began the moment the game started.
The final, it should be remembered, took place just two decades after the horrors of World War Two, with most of the fans packed into Wembley still having bitter memories of the conflict. Not surprisingly, this meant many of the chants were decidedly jingoistic in tone, with "Ee, Aye, Addio, We Won the War" being a particular favourite, echoing around the stadium every time England scored.
For a soccer-mad schoolboy, the occasion had added interest because three of the England team – Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters – also played for West Ham United, my local club.
So when I saw Hurst gallop the length of the Wembley turf – my viewing arrangements were fully restored by that time – to score the fourth and decisive goal in extra time to make it 4-2 and complete his historic hat-trick in the process, I was in seventh heaven. I remember, as we made our way down Wembley Way after the trophy presentation ceremony, the billboards of the London evening newspapers proclaiming: "West Ham Win World Cup."
'West Ham Win World Cup': Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, heroes of both the Hammers and England in 1966
Credit: Central Press/Getty Images Sport
On a personal note, the only downside of an otherwise joyful occasion was the omission from the winning team of the Spurs forward Jimmy Greaves, then one of the world’s most famous players.
Jim, as we knew him, was a close friend of my father, Con senior, who apart from being The Telegraph’s Old Bailey correspondent also covered football for the recently launched Sunday Telegraph and knew many of London’s leading footballers.
I remember Greaves coming round to our house the night after he had been badly injured in a tackle during the game against France. It required 18 stitches and, as Jim rolled up his trouser leg to show us the wound, I remember the injury to his shin looking more like something from a war zone than a football match.
As Greaves forlornly predicted that evening, the tackle effectively ended his participation in the tournament, with Hurst taking his place and becoming a legend for his performance in the final. Greaves had to wait until 2009 before finally receiving his World Cup winner’s medal.
On the day itself, though, everyone’s thoughts were focused on England’s momentous achievement in beating their fiercest rivals, Germany, in what turned out to be an utterly thrilling contest, with the outcome in doubt until almost the final whistle.
And as the celebrations began in earnest, we were treated to the inimitable sight of Nobby Stiles, the hard-tackling Manchester United midfielder, prancing with delight around Wembley without his dentures. Football, England-style, had truly come home.