It’s all over now... but still fresh in John’s memory

John Claridge ANL-160517-140341001
John Claridge ANL-160517-140341001
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It was on the wave of euphoria following England’s World Cup victory in 1966 that a former Spalding Guardian reporter said he and his fiancée fixed their wedding day.

That was to be almost three months to the day that John Claridge had been in Wembley Stadium to see England’s captain Bobby Moore lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Now John’s memories of that unforgettable moment in the nation’s sporting history are among those of 66 who were present which appear in a new book: ‘66 on ‘66: I Was There’, written by BBC journalist Matt Eastley.

At the time John, who now lives in Cheveley, was 24 and working as a news reporter on the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian.

A decent footballer, he had played for Pinchbeck United in the Peterborough League before injuries forced him to hang up his boots and he turned to football reporting.

But in July 1966 he had a day off and was standing in Wembley’s East Enclosure. “That summer, I was serving on the committee of my local football club, Holbeach United, for whom I had played.

“Like other affiliated clubs, they had been allocated a number of tickets for the tournament, plus two for the final,” said John.

“Club manager Freddie Watkins and myself said we would like tickets for England’s opening game against Uruguay and the final, regardless of who was playing.”

As England progressed to the final the excitement grew. “My ticket for the final had cost me the princely sum of £1 five shillings and never was any money better spent.

“We were behind the goal, opposite the tunnel and I 
remember the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic.”

John can still remember the jubilation which greeted the final whistle but then a fairly quiet journey home:

“I do remember walking into work on the Monday and my colleagues being very impressed that I had been at the match. I wrote a piece for the paper about my experience.”

John’s year was completed that autumn when he married Daphne. There has, however, been sadness in John and Daphne’s life.

In 1975, Daphne had given birth to the couple’s second son Matthew, who was born with a rare metabolic disorder called Shwachman’s Syndrome. Though he fought his condition bravely, Matthew died, aged just 12, in September 1987: “He was such a courageous little boy, whom we all miss dearly,” says John.

Matthew’s picture has a special place in the family living room and he will never be forgotten.

“Nineteen sixty-six was a very special year for me,” says John, “with my marriage and the World Cup Final. I still treasure my rosette, my programmes and ticket stubs and, even now, at 74, 
occasionally have to pinch myself as I recall those golden memories.”