My colleague Peter Chapman has a theory that the English working classes realised that it was all up with Empire three years before the upper-classes. The moment of toffish disillusionment came with the Suez crisis of 1956. But, for the working man, the turning point was the England v Hungary football match at Wembley in 1953. England lost 6-3 to a Puskas-inspired Hungary. It was not just that England lost their proud record of never having lost an international match at home. It was also that they were hammered. Humiliated.
For me, however, the realisation that the sun had set on our footballing empire came 20 years later – with the England v Poland World Cup qualifying match of October 1973. England failed to get to the World Cup for the first time ever. That is why a World Cup qualifier against Poland, this Tuesday night, which England must win to get to Brazil 2014, is redolent with nostalgia and fear. Read more