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     Saturday 30th July 2016 was the 50th anniversary of West Ham winning the World Cup for England, so as I set off from Boxgrove on the eastern side of Chichester to head for the South Downs I decided to embark on a little challenge. In celebration of that glorious day when England won the Jules Rimet trophy I wanted to honour those eleven players by locating clues to their names in the countryside. It was all a bit of fun really. Realistically I only had ten to find because of the Charlton brothers, in 1966 no substitutes were allowed so the starting eleven had to finish the game which was tough on those players but certainly made my task a lot easier. That’s a difficult challenge I hear you expostulate, perhaps but then again a few of those names have countryside undertones such as Hurst, Moore, Stiles and Banks so I was ever hopeful.

   

     My first port of call was the old priory remains at Boxgrove. Founded in the twelfth-century, this modest sized building had origins that pre-dated the Norman Conquest. By the sixteenth-century it was responsible for a school and alms-house but was soon to be trashed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Church of St. Mary & St. Blaise was built into some of the older ruins and was an obvious place to start searching. I nosed amongst the headstones to see if I could find the odd Wilson or Cohen, although that was perhaps a tad optimistic in a C of E churchyard. It didn’t take long to locate one Frederick J Hunt. Liverpool striker Roger Hunt was my first name, then things got even more exciting as I found John Henry Moore, namesake of England’s captain.

     Before leaving the church I went inside to look at the memorial window to Pilot Officer RAF William Meade Lindsley Fiske III. Billy Fiske died during the Battle of Britain whilst serving with 601 Squadron at nearby RAF Tangmere. His death was significant in that he was the first American citizen to be killed in World War II. Billy Fiske was something of a celebrity having won a gold medal for USA in the five man bobsleigh at the 1928 Winter Olympics, at 16 he remained the youngest Winter Olympic gold medallist up until 1992. In 1932 at Lake Placid he carried the American flag at the opening ceremony and won his second gold medal in the four man bobsleigh. He refused to compete in the 1936 games at Garmish-Partenkirchen in Germany because of his opposition to Hitler's Nazi regime, a stand that led him to join the RAF in 1939. The USA was neutral at this time so he pretended to be Canadian. On 16th August 1940 his plane was hit in the fuel tank and caught fire. He managed to land it at Tangmere but died of his injuries a day later in Chichester Hospital and was buried at Boxgrove.

     A line of footpaths brought me to Halnaker where I continued north for 2½ miles through woodland to Goodwood Race Course. There was a meeting taking place this day which explained the traffic along this otherwise quiet road and helicopters flying in from all directions. Just before one of the starting points, a wide stone track off to the right dropped me down to a small village that shared its name with two of England’s World Cup heroes. From Charlton I passed a row of cottages called Bankside so I blanked out the last three letters to give me England’s 1966 goalkeeper, the great Gordon Banks. I was doing well; Moore, Hunt, Charlton and Banks. It was just like catching Pokémon.

 

     I climbed Levin Down to the South Downs Way and from a wooded drop to Heyshott looked over some fine views to the north. A quick shufti inside the Church of St. James revealed the name of Arthur M.P. Wilson amongst the list of former vicars; Ray Wilson was the fifth name, halfway there. My search outside was less successful, only another Hunt, perhaps Graffham 2 miles to the east would provide better pickings. Below Graffham Down I went over two Nobby stiles in succession and then looked at my watch, it was exactly 3pm - kick off! West Germany were in their first team colours of black and white whilst England played in a changed strip of grey and white, well it was on our TV! Thirteen minutes later the Germans were ahead, yet by the time I arrived in Graffham at 3:30, England were level at 1-1. By blanking out the word 'field,' a sign to the town of Petersfield gave me the name of England's second goalscorer as I looked to make a southward return to Boxgrove. Back on the South Downs, things were getting tense as the Germans pressed for an equalizer. Then, as I wandered through Tegleaze Wood, disaster! Jack Charlton gave away a needless free kick in the dying seconds and Weber scooped in a scrappy equalizer. Having wandered 14 miles already with another 6 remaining I was shattered, just like the England players at the end of ninety minutes. Then I remembered Alf Ramsey's immortal words “You’ve won it once, now go and win it again!” In the village of East Dean I spied a small spherical object in a nearby garden, this was fitting as (arguably) England's man of the match in extra time was the 21 year old Alan Ball. My luck continued as I passed a pen of cohabiting hens, it was a tenuous connection to defender George Cohen to say the least but I was tired and clutching at straws by this time. South of the village I looked to the final climb up a wooded rise and realised the climax to my walk was up and over a hurst. I hadn't planned it that way but how ironic that England's hat trick hero provided the final piece of my 1966 jigsaw.

     It was a long day, much longer than that one in 1966 but probably not as dramatic. Still, I felt satisfied enough to have given it the recognition it deserved in the only way I knew how. Like the game itself the walk was clouded in moments of doubt, and some controversy. ‘Could England really win this most prestigious of footballing trophies’ we all kept thinking during that game, would I really find every name in one single day walk? History will always be shrouded in doubt; did I really find all ten or have I just made this up? My final words are in German and answer the one lingering doubt that has remained with all football followers throughout these past fifty years, all except English ones that is...

 
 

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