When the World Cup came to Welwyn Garden City

Football stars stay in Homestead Court Hotel

By Roger Filler

The England 1966 display at Homestead Court Hotel
Roger Filler

When England last hosted the World Cup in 1966, three foreign national teams came to stay and train in WGC.

First to arrive were the French squad, who stayed at Homestead Court Hotel in Homestead Lane on the run-up to the tournament and trained at King George V Playing Fields. Goal posts were also erected at Gosling Stadium and they later moved there.

Mr Jacque George, President of the French Football Federation said “Living in the pleasant surroundings of WGC should help the French team do well in their quest for the Jules Rimet Trophy.” Unfortunately it did not, and the French team failed to qualify out of the group stages.

Next to arrive were the Argentine team. They thought they would be staying at a swish London hotel and spent 30 minutes on the doorstep of Homestead Court arguing with their manager about whether to stay or not. However, after spending a couple of days in WGC they were offered the chance to move to a London hotel and refused.

The West German side slipped into the hotel on 26 July having qualified for the finals, due the following weekend. They began their training at Bragbury End, Stevenage, the following day. They made it plain they were confident of defeating England in the final. They had considered training on King George V Playing Fields but felt it was a little too bumpy and built up. They feared too many local people would come out to watch them.

Their fears were well founded. Once news got out that the World Cup finalists were staying in WGC, crowds of youngsters flocked to Homestead Court but reports at the time in the Welwyn Times suggest that German side were very gracious and only too pleased to give out autographs and sign footballs for the young football fans.

The Germans enjoyed their stay at Homestead Court so much they gave the staff 10 tickets to the final and organised transport for them as well.

Were you one of the young fans who remember the excitement when the World Cup came to WGC? Why not log in and share your memories

This page was added on 31/08/2010.

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  • I was one of those youngsters who got autographs from the French, Argentinian and German squads. I was 11 at the time. Still got them. Well remember getting on the Argentinian coach the day after the infamous match at Wembley, getting autographs and then having to leave as soon as Rattin appeared.

    By Paul Phillips (15/09/2016)
  • My mother was German and my uncle came over for the 1966 World Cup.  Some of the German team were semi-professional and my uncle worked with Lothar Emmerich.  He invited us to visit the team at the hotel.  I was 13.  I have all their autographs on a postcard photo of the team, together with that of Bert Trautmann (former Manchester City Goalkeeper) who was visiting the team at the time.

    By LW (31/07/2016)
  • My mother worked at the Homestead Court in 1966. I was 12 at the time. She brought home football socks and shorts given to her by the French and German teams. The Argentinian team gave her some pennants, one of which was autographed by the players, including Antonio Rattin who was sent off in the quarter final match against England. The Germans also brought some of their own food with them so, again thanks to mum, I ‘enjoyed’ my first muesli experience. Being interviewed by a foreign TV crew at King George V is another memory, though admittedly very vague, of this time.

    By Patrick Hart (08/04/2016)
  • I was a reporter on the Welwyn Times at the time. I attended the reception for the France team, the West Germans and the Argies, whom I found rude and grumpy and after they lost to England with skipper Rattan sent off they were in no mood to speak to the press. They even left their rooms in a mess before departing in disgrace. The England squad were always accomodating to the press. I still have my 1966 World Cup press pass. Happy memories now I am 70 and still live in Welwyn village after my world travels.

    By bob bryant (08/04/2016)
  • My mum (Beryl) used to be the manager of the kitchens at Homestead Court hotel for many years and was there in 1966, I have soveniers and autographs of both the Argentina & West German football teams.

    By Peter Monk (07/04/2016)
  • I used to be the morning paper boy for the pub in the mid sixties.I then had many pints in there in the early 70s,rubbing shoulders with many England players staying at Homestead Court Hotel for home games.

    By Alan Woods (05/11/2015)
  • I worked in the Beehive pub across the park from Homestead Court and served Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and the rest of the England squad one year, probably 1971/72  ish . 

    By Paul davies (24/10/2015)
  • I also remember The French side being there.

    My next door neighbour in Howlands was French.

    They came down to Howlands and had a game of football with us. we were all 10 year olds then.

    By RON WATTS (21/07/2014)
  • I was a starry-eyed year old when I saw the Argentine and West German players during their brief stay. I still have the German autographs, such as Beckenbauer, Haller, Overath and Seeler. A wonderful experience. I also remember the Swiss football team dropping by in later years. 

    By Richard Kreider (22/06/2014)
  • I was in the QE2 hospital at the time, and remember collecting signatures from the Argentine team, who were in the Physiotherapy department next door to Occupational Therapy – where I sent much time riding a bike-powered jigsaw!

    By Tim Brook (26/04/2014)
  • I and dozens of ‘mates’ used to go to Stanborough Pool almost every day during the school holidays in 1966 (I was 16 years old). One day the French World Cup squad turned up at the pool and we all challenged them to a kick-about. Needless to say they politely refused!

    By Geoff Knowles (25/02/2013)