England. 1966. The World Cup.
Duncan Hamilton watched England beat West Germany as an eight-year-old boy in the company of his father and grandfather. He recalls ‘Wembley, spread out in the sun; the waving flags; the delirious, joy-of-all-joys moment of the final whistle; the trophy sparkling in the late afternoon light’.
But, seeing the whole game again during the misery of the first Covid lockdown, finally made him realise what Alf Ramsey and his players had no inkling of, which was what came next for them. How, for many of those boys of summer, almost everything after that shimmering moment amounted to an anti-climax or a setback. How ’66 was not a beginning, a guaranteed path towards more success, but a slow decline and fall, and also a disproportionate number of disappointments. And how the triumph of ’66 was dulled through constant repetition, the same images always flashed before us.
Hamilton recognised, too, how many myths and misconceptions had grown around the match.
He decided to revisit ’66, tracing the very roots of a story – as well as the hidden figures within it – that really began during the era of post-War austerity.
Answered Prayers provides, at last, a full account of English football’s greatest achievement and the failures that followed it. We see the institutional inability to appreciate Ramsey and his players, who were taken for granted; the political machinations of the blazered fools who ran the Football Association; the short-sighted blunderers of the Football League.
With his matchless insight and descriptive power, Hamilton tells history afresh and shows us, for the first time, the scale of what was won and what was lost.
PRAISE FOR DUNCAN HAMILTON
‘Hamilton has a perceptively humane understanding of men for whom football was never just a game’ Guardian
‘A marriage of prose and detail so fine and fastidious that it takes the breath away’ Independent
‘Justifiably prize-winning’ Mail on Sunday