When the World Cup came to Welwyn Garden City

Homestead Court entertains World Cup teams

By Roger Filler

The 1966 display at Homestead Court Hotel

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.” 

They played badly against England and arrived at the hotel the day after the match under the impression that WGC was in the centre of London.

After discovering they were miles from the big city they started arguing and refused to stay in the 3-star hotel until, as it was reported, they saw an attractive blonde woman in the hotel and changed their minds, though this was later refuted by the then hotel manager Mr B Jennings. 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 coach 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 Germans 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.

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This page was added on 31/08/2010.

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  • My late mother Suzzanne Rose organised the stay of the French team and acted as enterpreter. My brother and me went training with them to Stevenage and my mum and dad went to the final at Wembly as guests of the team. Later I visited the home of Bastia manager Jasseron and we were ball boys at an international game at Olympic Marseilles at the velodrome, guests of Monsr. Mayer,  president of Olympic.Great days.

    By richard rose (29/10/2016)
  • I remember well the French team staying at the Homestead Court Hotel. One of the French players borrowed my bike to go and talk to a local girl, and left it on the other side of the playing fields.

    By malcolm anderson (21/06/2013)
  • I have a good memory of the 1966 West German Football Team staying at Homestead Court Hotel, my dad Jim Williams was the groundsman at King George V playing fields at the time and I was fortunate to meet the team over the park and Franz Beckenbauer gave me a sixpence which I still have. I remember them playing on the car park area a game with horseshoes as I sat with my dad and watched them, I was only 12 at the time.

    By Julie Parker (13/06/2013)