How many male footballers can be described as an England World Cup Winner?! Very few, but Ray Wilson could. An England player, who started his career with Huddersfield Town, Wilson died a few days ago at 83. He was a quiet, modest, key member of England’s 1966 winning football team.
England’s men’s football team winning the World Cup is not something many people today have experienced or remember and, if truth be told, can easily imagine happening now! Maybe we need to go back to basics and learn a few lessons from the likes of Ray Wilson and his background.
Ray Wilson grew up in Shirebrook, a small mining pit village in Derbyshire. In his own football autobiography, he describes his childhood as, “Back street football. A paper round. A punch on the nose. This was my heritage.” He also noted that, “We had no toys but…all we ever needed was a ball.” He worked hard, kept his head down and managed to break through to professional football in 1952. Wilson went on to play under four great managers: Bill Shankly; Harry Catterick; Walter Winterbottom and, of course, Sir Alf Ramsey. Along with winning the World Cup, he helped Everton win the FA Cup too in 1966: the championships were just six weeks apart!
Ray Wilson was the oldest member of England’s World Cup squad in 1966 at 31. He retired from football five years later. He returned to Huddersfield with his family and became an undertaker. How times really have changed! Ray Wilson had an immensely successful football career and yet always retained a humble, modest, footballing approach. The only thing flashy about Ray was his name: called after his mother’s favourite Hollywood star, his first name was actually Ramon. Try pulling that one off, growing up in a Derbyshire pit village in the 1940s! It seems particularly poignant to say goodbye to Ray Wilson as we ‘limber up’ for the start of the 2018 World Championship in Russia. Maybe Today’s England team will show that humility, doggedness and resilience too…