John Eaton knows what it’s like to watch England play at the final of a major international tournament.
The 76-year-old was at Wembley the day the Three Lions beat Germany to win the 1966 World Cup.
“I’ve got shivers thinking about that day, walking up Wembley way, with all the Germans and singing and their chanting and our arms around them, and that wonderful, wonderful friendly atmosphere,” John, a heritage boat captain at Windermere Jetty Museum, told Sky News.
In 1966, John was 20 and working as an apprentice.
He had to borrow money from his parents to pay for the tickets, but managed to see six games including all the fixtures at Goodison Park and the final at Wembley.
“I saw players that I’d only ever dreamed about like Eusebio and Pele, and my hero Gordon Banks,” he said.
“The final was a real rollercoaster. Your head’s down in your chest and then you’re singing and dancing again, and then there’s the debate on whether the ball went over the line, and of course it did!
“It was one end and then the other end, and there was some really good, intricate passing and football play, just what you want to see in a football match.”
In 1966 England beat Germany 4-2 to lift their only trophy at a major tournament.
“The Germans were an exceptional team, but we were better on the day,” John said.
“Bobby Charlton was in tears, Jackie Charlton in tears, and dear old Nobby Stiles, bless him! Socks down to his ankles, just one of those images I will never ever forget.”
John says the win lifted spirits in the country for months after the tournament.
“There was euphoria, absolute euphoria. The streets and every town you went through, beeping of horns and waving on the roads. It was just wonderful. The whole spirit of this nation was lifted,” he said.
“I only hope that it happens on Sunday because of what everybody’s been through in the last 18 months. It’s been hard work for people, our NHS staff and all the doctors.
“All the people we’ve lost, all those families, they just need a boost and I’m hoping that Gareth Southgate and his team will do that for us on Sunday.”
John is predicting an England victory.
“The Italians have had a bad time with COVID as well but I think this nation is going to come through and England are going to win 2-1,” he said.
Most of the people watching Sunday’s showpiece against Italy have never seen England play at a final of a major international tournament.
So what is John’s advice to them during the potentially 90 minutes of nail-biting drama?
“That’s a really difficult questions to answer,” he said.
“You can feel so many emotions, but you’ve got to believe in the team. Gareth Southgate believes in the team, those players believe in themselves, and that’s what’s going to shine through.”
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