Tears of sadness and joy: Your stories of watching England

A graphic showing Bobby Moore, Paul Gascoigne and Gareth Southgate
One World Cup and 55 years of hurt – it’s not easy being an England fan
Date: Sunday, 11 July Time: 20:00 BST Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app

“My memories are of a nation consumed with one thought: winning the World Cup. Everything else in the world faded into insignificance.”

Terry Hymans was at Wembley on 30 July 1966, but not as a fan. England were about to make history by winning their first major, and to date only, international tournament. They beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time, but Terry had a job to do, as a young policeman on crowd control duty outside the stadium.

“It was a pleasure to police what was a passionate and happy crowd be they German or English and to be caught up in what was, for me, an incredible experience.

“I served for over 30 years in the police and for me that day was one of the happiest of my service. I don’t think any of us realised the significance of it at the time as we were so young, or that it would be more than 50 years before our team had the chance to win a major final again.”

This Sunday, 55 years later, England will be looking to lift silverware again in the final against Italy, back at Wembley. The decades in between have been filled with tales of heartache and anguish, but passion and excitement too.

With that in mind, BBC Sport asked for your favourite memories following England in person at major tournaments. Here are your stories, from 1966 to the present day.

World Cup 1966, England

‘The Portugal semi-final was the best I have ever seen England play’

Philip Edwards, father of DJ and TV presenter Rick, was there in ’66, celebrating the end of his school exams with his friends. He sat and watched Alan Ball closely on the pitch, on rather uncomfortable seating.

“Myself and some of my friends just bought a season ticket each for all the Wembley games. I don’t remember how we managed that, it is difficult to envisage now.

“I stayed in London with a friend for three weeks. At the end, I bought his mum a box of chocolates and his dad a box of cigars as a thank you.

“As England played all their games at Wembley, we saw all of them, including Argentina [quarter-final], and Portugal [semi-final] which was a fantastic match, probably the best I have ever seen England play, against a really, really tough opponent.

“The day of the final was beautifully sunny. The last-minute German equaliser was really gutting, but, from where I sat, Geoff Hurst’s second goal was definitely over the line!”

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Philip’s World Cup final ticket

‘Men were in jackets and ties, no replica shirts anywhere!’

For 72-year-old Tony Hitchcock, the contrast between the two games against Germany, in 1966 and the last-16 tie at Euro 2020, stands out. He’ll be back at Wembley for final this weekend.

“I remember on the day of the final, walking down Wembley Hill; my dad had been to every game but I missed a couple because I’d booked a holiday. There were Union Jacks everywhere; the main difference today is that now they are St George’s Cross flags. Men were all wearing jackets and ties; there were no replica shirts anywhere. My ticket was in the lower block 66; it wasn’t really a good view at the old Wembley, but the occasion made up for it!

“The 2021 Germany game was a complete contrast. I went with my eldest son Daryl. We had excellent seats on the halfway line, and I just felt so elated after the victory. I paid 1.5 shillings for my ticket to the 1966 final, and a ticket to this one costs 295 euros. I will be attending on Sunday; a very good friend of mine managed to get two in the general ballot, and I’m very grateful to her.

“I think if England win I will become very emotional… I hope my dad will be looking down on it.”

‘Some West Germany fans left early’

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Jonathan had his final ticket framed with a signed Bobby Moore photo

Jonathan Clark was 15 when he attended the 1966 final with his two older brothers and sister, after his father paid £5 each for the tickets having promised as much earlier in the tournament.

“I was 15 years old in July 1966. I remember in the early stages of the tournament our father rather rashly saying that he would get tickets if we reached the final. I was a huge fan of Jimmy Greaves but was furious when I realised Geoff Hurst had replaced him for the game.

“My most amusing memory was that some West Germany supporters seated behind us decided it was game over and left with about five minutes to go.

“So, it must have come as a shock as they were wandering away from Wembley Stadium to hear the roar of the crowd as [Wolfgang] Weber equalised in the 89th minute.”

World Cup 1970, Mexico

‘I spent the first night sleeping at the bus station’

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Malcolm’s view of Brazil vs England in Mexico 1970

Malcolm Ledgard, 75, remembers heading to Mexico in 1970 to watch the defending champions play eventual winners Brazil in the group stage before getting knocked out by West Germany in the quarter-finals. He travelled from his home in British Columbia to Guadalajara, sleeping bag in tow.

“I travelled down by bus from Seattle to Guadalajara where the England team were based; it was quite an adventure in itself. I arrived early in the morning on the day of the opening match and left my backpack in a locker at the bus station.

“I knew that some tickets would be held back for the locals to buy, so I took a gamble to go down there and try to get some. As for where I would stay? I had a good sleeping bag.

“I was successful in getting tickets for all the Guadalajara games, including the big one between England and Brazil. I had always wanted to see Brazil, I loved watching them on TV. I was also excited to see Pele play.

“I was impressed with Bobby Moore. He kept a good watch over Pele and made good things happen; we were beaten but they really gave a good account of themselves and looked the better team.

“I spent the first night sleeping at the bus station in my sleeping bag, alongside some people sleeping on blankets. I later befriended someone after a game and was invited to stay with him and his family when he found out that I had nowhere to stay.”

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England fans at the World Cup in Mexico 1970

Euro ’96, England

‘You sensed the whole country had a new feeling for supporting England’

Fast-forward 26 years to Euro ’96. Kevin Randle was there to see it, witnessing first hand the wave of support which has enveloped England again this summer, despite the fact they lost at home to Germany in the semi-finals.

“Being 18 years old it was a great time in the ’90s with the music, the football. I’m a Blackburn fan so seeing them win the Premier League and [Alan] Shearer starting to score again was great. You sensed the whole country had a new feeling for supporting England.

“It was a great summer and I have my 1996 playlist on repeat at home and in my car all the time. It’s the memories, it takes me back to a time where life was simple, without worry.

“The elation when Shearer scored against Germany, at that moment you thought ‘that’s it, we are going to win this’. But for me now, it’s looking forward. Hoping Harry Kane will be doing this against Italy. My message to every England fan… enjoy this moment, the people you’re with, your friends, your family. These are the things you will remember. Nobody can take them away.”

‘In ’96 it was tears of sadness, and in 2021 it was tears of pure joy and happiness’

Peter Dyas saw it all at Euro ’96 and suffered a traumatic event on the day of the Germany game last month, but thankfully there was a happy ending.

“In ’96 my dad took me and my brother to all the games. I remember the Wembley walk very vividly – obviously most of that is now gone as you go into Wembley Stadium station, but you still feel the ghost of the old structure.

“On the morning of the Germany game [in the last 16 at Euro 2020] my dad suffered a mild stroke. He told me I still had go to the game. By the time I got to the stadium I had got the news my dad was fine and the scans were all clear.

“Obviously, the emotion at the final whistle to have finally laid the ghost of ’96 plus the connection to my dad taking me 25 years earlier. In ’96 it was tears of sadness, and in 2021 it was tears of pure joy and happiness.

“I shared all the photos with him during the day and he was pinging me on WhatsApp. Nothing can ever eclipse that day – I think even winning the final may feel empty in comparison, as Germany is connected to those great failures of ’96 and at Italia ’90. My dad is now back home and fully recovered.”

World Cup 2006, Germany

‘I felt the electricity in the air and I was stopped in my tracks’

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Andy at the 2010 World Cup

Andy McRae made a solo trip to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and narrowly evaded a scare as he scored tickets to England’s 1-0 last-16 win over Ecuador, before travelling to South Africa with a friend four years later.

“At the 2006 World Cup, I made for Stuttgart and the Gottleib-Daimler Stadion, hoping to pick up a ticket somehow. With five minutes to go until kick-off I was panic-stricken and empty-handed, but I then spied a woman with a couple of tickets in her hand. Thirty seconds and 60 euros later I was approaching the automated ticket gates.

“This tournament saw a crackdown on the ticket touts, with pre-purchased tickets bearing the purchaser’s name. Remembering the initiative I glanced down to see if I might pass for whoever’s name was printed on my ticket.

“I looked and was horrified. The name on my ticket was… Beatte Drumm.

“Beat a drum? My ticket was obviously a forgery, I was the fall-guy of an admittedly amusing ruse and I was surely about to set off an alarm at the ticket gates.

“I tentatively inserted it and was ecstatic when the light went green and the gate opened. I heard the crowd, I felt the electricity in the air and I was stopped in my tracks at the top of the stairs as I drank it all in. What a moment.

“Four years later I was in Cape Town with my mate Tim and was in the crowd for the Algeria match when Wayne Rooney sounded off as he left the pitch. The highlight of that trip had to be the magnificent stadiums at both Cape Town and Soccer City.”

World Cup 2018, Russia

‘I found myself hugging a random Russian woman’

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Volgograd Arena, before England vs Tunisia at the 2018 World Cup

Adam Stokes made it to Russia to see England’s last campaign, at the 2018 World Cup, witnessing the opener against Tunisia and a dramatic winner from Harry Kane…

“It was my first time going to an international tournament so I was extremely excited. As a student I could only afford to go to the one game so I decided to go to the opener against Tunisia in Volgograd. It was such an amazing experience which I will forever treasure.

“I flew into St Petersburg and then took the train to Moscow. I then took a second train to Volgograd, which was 18 hours.

“The game itself was quite tense for the most part, being 1-1 for most of the game. Harry Kane popped up late on to grab the winner and the scenes were incredible. I found myself hugging a random Russian woman who had been sitting next to me the entire game. It was pure jubilation.”

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