The 1966 England World Cup Squad Come to Lewis to Train

29 04 2017

Inspired by a recent article (in a proper local history publication) about the Lewis connections of a famous England rugby player, the Made Up History of Stornoway have decided to look into some of the other little-known Leodhasach links to Sassenach sport. Part One (of a few) looks at the world of football.
While we’ve never heard the end of England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup, few are aware that in the months before the tournament, the England squad were sent up to Lewis to undertake intensive training with their cousins, before they faced the greatest footballing nations in the world.
England Manager Alf Ramsales had Island connections (as did many other members of the team) and felt that a few months of character-building training on the machairs of Lewis would toughen up the squad.
On their arrival on the Loch Seaforth, Ramsales arranged a number of fixtures with local teams to acclimatise his players to the Lewis weather. A Mitchell’s bus was hired and customised as the Team Coach and this took the squad round all the local football pitches over the period of a few weeks. However, despite having such a range of talent to hand, the England squad suffered a number of crushing defeats at the hands of Ness, Point, Carloway, Tolsta, Back, Tong, Stornoway United, Stornoway Aths, Stornoway Rovers, Uig, Lochs, Harris, Point again, West Side, Lochganvich (who didn’t even have a football team), Stornoway Bowling Club, St Columba’s Women’s Guild, 2nd Stornoway Scouts and a Coulegrein House Under-101 Select.
Ramsales realised that a lot more work was required if his team were to have any hope in the World Cup. After consultation with his cousin Murdo Alec Ramsales, on how the Lewis teams trained and prepared themselves psychologically, he decided to adopt a more Lewisian way of playing football. A carry-out was therefore consumed on the bus on the way to every match, fags were made compulsory at half-time (roll ups – none of your fancy Embassy filters), and at least two fights were introduced in every match (usually between members of the same team). 
The England squad soon began to match the Lewis teams (in terms of drinking prowess at least) and started to scrape draws and eventually a few scrappy wins. Many football fans will remember the famous Isles AM broadcast of a particular drunken Aths vs England match at Goathill Park, where the commentator Coinneach Wool-steinish-holm came out with the famous phrase ‘Some people are on the pish’
But eventually, the hard yet skilful tactics of the Lewis teams rubbed off on the England Squad. They finally managed to find their rhythm and went on to win that year’s Eilean an Fhraoich Cup (also known as the ‘Wools Remains Trophy’ donated by a local tweed entrepreneur and fuidheag contractor). 
As everyone fleekeen well knows (and is never permitted to forget) England also went on to win the World Cup that year. But it’s high time that the plaudits heaped upon the England squad were shared with the Island relatives who served as their role models and taught them everything they knew – including Gordon Peatbanks, Bobby and Jack Carlton, Bobban Moor (the Captain), Geoff Hiort, Nobby Stilepark, Balallan Ball and Jimmy Griais (later on the telly as Saints and Griasach).
As an interesting aside, whilst on the island the England Squad managed to get sponsorship with a local butcher’s and proudly displayed that firms logo (a number of chops) on their shirts. This symbol was later immortalised in the 1990’s through the popular song ‘Three Loins On The Chest’ by The Lightning&Electrical Seceeeders.