Retro: ‘Mr Sheffield Wednesday’s’ dream comes true as Hillsborough stages World Cup matches

Eric Taylor in his office at Hillsborough
Eric Taylor in his office at Hillsborough

The dream of “Mr Sheffield Wednesday” Eric Taylor came true in July 1966 when Hillsborough staged four matches in the Fifa World Cup.

Fulwood-born Taylor, who spent his entire 45-year football career with the Owls, actually started as an office boy in a law office before landing a similar job with Wednesday at the age of 17.

West Germany's Haller scores for West Germany against  Switzerland

West Germany's Haller scores for West Germany against Switzerland

He also took on the job as part-time team manager during the second World War and did so well that he was made secretary/manager even though he had never played or coached.

He spent most of his time on administration leaving tactics to the coaches, but eventually relinquished football duties after relegation to Division Two in 1958 when Harry Catterick was brought in as team manager.

Taylor became a keen administrator with great ambition for the club and when he heard that England was set to be awarded the 1966 World Cup he was determined that Wednesday should stage some of the games.

He flew out to the 1962 finals in Chile to gain experience of the set-up and as a result of his groundwork the club was chosen to stage three Group 2 matches and a quarter-final in 1966.

The FA provided funding for ground redevelopment, including the complete rebuilding of the Leppings Lane end.

The magnificent 10,000-seater North Stand had opened in 1961, costing £150,000 with its cantilevered design offering views without obstruction, a rarity in those days.

Taylor had dreams of the whole ground being developed in the same style but finance did not allow it.

And so to the great daywhen Hillsborough staged its first World Cup match.

Tony Hardisty, reporting in The Star, said Switzerland were beaten almost before they took the field because two of their star players, who should have been proud to play for their country, had been left out.

Linkman Jacob Khun and defender Werner Leimgruber, along with second string goalkeeper Leo Eichmann, chose to break the rules at the Hallam Tower Hotel the night before the match and a three-man committee decided they would tackle their greatest rivals without them.

And the Germans - who were destined to go onto the final of course - strolled home 5-0.

Hardisty said the pick of the goals was Helmut Haler’s 21st minute solo effort, after Sigi Held had hit the 16th minute opener.

Franz Beckenbauer scored two grand goals in the 40th and 52nd minutes and Haler’s second, a 77th minute penalty, completed the scoring.

Switzerland could be forgiven for thinking that Hillsborough was their unlucky ground, as they were beaten there again three days later, Spain winning 2-1.

They actually took the lead with a 32nd minute goal by Rene-Pierre Quentin but second half goals by Manuel Sanchis and Amancio earned Spain victory before 32,028 spectators.

And the Hillsborough blank was complete for Switzerland when they went down 2-0 to Argentina on July 19.

Hardisty reported the Argentina were sometimes wasteful and sometimes eye-catching. While he didn’t fancy them to win the tournament they were a hard team to beat.

* Matches at Hillsborough -

Group 2: West Germany 5 (Haller 2, 1 pen; Beckenbauer 2, Held) Switzerland 0; 36,127.

Spain 2 (Sanchis, Amancio) Switzerland 1 (Quentin); 32,028.

Argentina 2 (Artime, Onega) Switzerland 0; 32,127

QUARTER-FINAL: West Germany 4 (Haller 2, Beckenbauer, Seeler) Uruguay 0; 40,007

* At the end of the tournament and almost to put the icing on the cake for Taylor, Hillsborough was voted as the best provincial venue in the competition.