Paine, seen in the background, directly below the trophy, did not play in the final

The passage of time, and football’s tragic dementia link, leave an ever more select cast of 1966 World Cup winners who can provide eyewitness comparison of England’s only previous major tournament final.

They will be represented at Wembley Stadium on Sunday night by Sir Geoff Hurst, the man who scored a hat-trick in the final and, 8,500 miles away in Johannesburg, another hero of Sir Alf Ramsey’s squad will be settling down to watch. 

Terry Paine was one of only 15 Englishman who actually played in the tournament and, after suffering a concussion in the 2-0 win against Mexico, lost his place to Alan Ball for the knockout phase. “I woke up on the treatment table, didn’t even know I’d played and was groggy for four or five days,” says Paine, a Southampton winger who would later also set an all-time Football League appearance record of 824 games. 

“It would have been interesting to see if Alan would have still come back in if I had been 100 per cent, but Alf got it right because we won the World Cup.” It all meant watching Hurst score his match-winning goals in extra-time in a suit from the vantage point of a pitchside red carpet alongside the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Jimmy Armfield. 

There were no substitutes in 1966 and the non-playing squad were not even granted a place in the dugout or access to the dressing-room, much less the opportunity to impart the sort of on-field impetus that players like Jack Grealish now provide. It was not the only vast change from 55 years ago. “The whole ‘fotball’s coming home’ theme has taken hold and the expectation is huge,” says Paine. “The build up for us on the night before the final was a walk into Hendon to watch a picture. Strolled there. Not one camera. Not one single person asking for our autograph.”

All of the 22-man squad, Ramsey and his two assistants watched a 138-minute film by the name of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines before a similarly stress-free wander back through the streets of North London. Some of the players also left the hotel on the morning of the game for a quiet coffee in a nearby cafe. Nobby Stiles, a devout Catholic, went to mass at the local church. The seven-mile bus ride to the stadium, however, could not have been more different. “There streets were lined and there was this huge excitement,” says Paine. “We were all looking out the coach window. I wouldn’t say that we were overwhelmed but it was obvious the country were right behind us. People were holding up signs like ‘Nobby Stiles for Prime Minister’ and it was all the way from Hendon Hall to Wembley.”

Hendon Hall is where the England team were based throughout the World Cup and, as with Gareth Southgate now, Paine is convinced that Ramsey’s man-management of the team culture — and especially the squad players — was critical.

England's players on a stroll outside their Hendon Hall base

Credit: Hulton Archive

“I sense a family atmosphere in Gareth Southgate’s squad and that was the same as us. It was like playing for a club side, everybody was together. All we wanted was for the team to win and be part of that success.”

Ramsey had two tactics to nurture those players who were not starting. The first was quite simply to keep everyone guessing about who might start. The second was lots of casual one-to-ones.

“The beauty with Alf was that you were never quite sure what team he would pick,” says Paine. “I remember sitting next to Gordon Banks after a game before the World Cup and Alf was thanking all the players for their efforts. Gordon was, ‘thank-you Alf, I’ll see you next game’. Alf just turned around and said, ‘Will you?’ He kept you on your toes.

“He never gave the impression that there were any rubber stamps. He left out Jimmy Greaves and there was nobody more surprised than me, after Alan Ball had played the first game, that I came in against Mexico. I had been playing in the second division at the time. But Alf didn’t really care what you did for your club. It was how you played when he selected you that mattered.

“Southgate is very much like that – you still don’t know exactly which team is going to play. I would play Grealish personally from the start but he’s got options and he ignores the pundits.”

And how would Ramsey keep the squad happy during their month at Hendon Hall, especially in an era with even less opportunity for those out of the team to get playing time?

“It was the one-on-ones,” says Paine. “He’d slide up beside you, say something in your ear. You always felt part of it even if you weren’t selected. After my first international goal, he shook hands with everybody to thank them and just whispered to me, ‘Scoring goals now as well are you?’ Little things like that have an effect. Alf was strict in many ways but he had a dry sense of humour.”

There was also a freedom around the camp, even if no-one dared take liberties. "Alan Ball and George Eastham went off to see some dog racing — we would play cards and we had all the other games being piped into Hendon Hall so there was a lot of football to watch. Alf trusted all the players and people were professional and accepting of what was ahead of us.” 

The 11 non-playing squad initially all had seats together high up at Wembley for the final before heading pitchside – with England leading 2-1 in the dying minutes – to join the presentations. "We couldn’t find the right entrance and were nearly late," says Paine. "We were winning when we left our seats, thinking there would be huge celebrations only to find they had equalised."

Paine, far right, was seated on the floor pitchside when the winning goals were scored in 1966

Credit: PA Archive

The whole squad were later together for an official celebratory dinner at Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel. They all then went home the following day, with Paine immediately reporting back for pre-season training at Southampton. The Football Association made such profits from the tournament that they had to pay £250,000 in tax, but there would be a bonus of just £1,000 for each of the players who had won them the World Cup.

There were only medals for those 11 players who started the final. Paine would have to wait another 12 years for his MBE, and that was not because of the World Cup but for “services for football” after he had beaten Jimmy Dickinson’s all-time Football League appearance record. It was a wonderful day, then, when the non-playing members of the squad were invited to 10 Downing Street some 43 years after the final to belatedly receive official World Cup winners medals.

Paine would run a restaurant, a fruit and vegetable store, two pubs and own a string of racehorses in retirement, before moving to South Africa where he has spent several decades as a pundit for SuperSport, which broadcasts Premier League football to more than 50 countries across Africa. Now 82, he remains in good health amid the relentlessly distressing news of so many former team-mates being struck down with dementia.

“I think it’s probably been proven that heading the ball did affect players in later life,” says Paine, whose instinct for self-preservation became renowned as a player. Known as ‘Pogo’ for an ability to skip over heavy challenges, former team-mates say he perfected the art of antagonising opposition defenders, whether physically or verbally, before switching wings to avoid any payback. 

“I never went in a wall and I never headed a ball unless I had to,” he says. “What we did with that old ball was a wonder really. It was like a medicine ball – it didn’t fly and move around like now. The defenders would have entire training sessions when they would just head the ball.”

Paine has been thrilled by England’s progress, but remains baffled by the long wait for a match of comparable importance. 

“The big question is why, in 55 years, haven’t we got into a final? I think we should put into perspective. It is an important final, and they have done very well to get there, but it is not the World Cup.

“But if we can be European champions with a young squad who should get better, it should augur well for the next World Cup. It means we can go into that next World Cup as an England team who could go all the way.”