Billy Wright (L) Ferenc Puskas (R), Wembley 1953
A match that destroyed the aura of the invincibility and changed the way the English thought of football. Hungary led by Ferenc Puskas met England for the first time at Wembley Stadium. During the pre-match lineup, one English player nudged another and said: “Look at that little fat chap. We’ll murder this lot.” The fat chap, Puskas, ran rings round Billy Wright, then England’s captain, scoring a famous goal.
How important was this match? For the first time England saw a team that played improvisational football not reliant on formalized coaching. For Bobby Charlton, Alan Ball, and George Cohen it changed the way that they approached football. Charlton on the death of Puskas had this to say, “He revolutionised the game in this country. From there English football started to think more professionally.”
Ball was similarly awestruck. “Puskas was a total footballer with incredible ability on the ball,” he said. “When I was a boy he was a thrill to watch.” George Cohen, another of the class of 1966, learned much from the Hungarian’s exhibition for Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup final, a 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt. “Puskas was amazing that day.”
England lost to Hungary, 6-3. The first time a foreign team had beaten the English at Wembley. A year later, they were humiliated again, this time in Hungary and lost 7-1. The losses were devastating and the aura of invincibility forever destroyed. The English 13 years later took back football when they won the World Cup in 1966 at Wembley.They had learned their lesson well from that ‘little fat chap.’