THERE was only a handful of us who could remember seeing England play in a World Cup final.
It was, of course, 1966 when a Geoff Hurst hat-trick delivered the Jules Rimet trophy to these shores.
Fast forward 52 years and here we are, gathered in Lyme Regis Football Club, swapping stories of that day in July 1966 – me, my life-long pal Dave Reed, Ken Hitchcock and Richard Austin – remembering where we watched Bobby Moore lead England to victory over Germany.
I was a cub reporter at the time, just one year into my job, and had to cover four flower shows on World Cup final day. I skipped one of them so I did not miss the kick-off. I nearly got the sack. It would have been worth it.
I watched it at home in Anning Road with my Dad and brother John. A few doors down the road Dave was cheering them on in his front room and Ken and Richard watched the game at Ken Caddy’s house in Kings’ Way with a few other local footballers.
That evening Dave and I were among the 700 crammed into the Marine Theatre to see The Searchers at one of Bob Alexander’s Big Beat Nights.
When the chanting of “England – England” broke out, the band, one of the most popular in the UK at the time, walked off stage – and didn’t come back for an hour.
At the football club on Wednesday we dared to talk about how we would celebrate England winning the World Cup again if we could beat Croatia in the semi-final and then France in the final on Sunday.
When Keiran Trippier curled in his fantastic free-kick after just five minutes, we dared to dream that football was indeed coming home.
The football club was packed with members, supporters and a number of people I have never seen in the clubhouse before. They were most welcome and the atmosphere was electric.
One-nil up at half-time and we were certainly the better side in the first-half.
But after the break, Croatia started to take control and it was as though the young England players suddenly realised they were on the threshold of something huge and the nerves set in.
Extra-time, we can still do this. Please don’t let this go to penalties. Let’s have another beer.
Then the Croatians popped in the winner. Dreams shattered yet again.
But we shouldn’t complain. These young men brought the country together in a way that no politician could ever envisage.
Forget Brexit, Forget Trump’s visit to England, the chaos on the railways and the concerns over the NHS. For a few short weeks, England was at one again.
I’m a self-proclaimed football nut with a 50-year-plus association with the Lyme club. I also worked in sport publishing and I have met most of my football heroes.
But I can’t stand professional football. The greed, the cheating, the corruption at world level. It sickens me. But this England side revived something inside me that I thought was lost for ever. A love for our national game.