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World Cup winner Eastham chats to matchday programme

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Saturday’s issue of UNITED – Newcastle United’s official matchday programme – includes a rare interview with 1966 World Cup winner George Eastham, who turned out for both the Magpies and Arsenal during his playing career.

Though he impressed during a four-year spell at St. James’ Park, Eastham is perhaps best remembered on Tyneside for the club vs. player dispute that would ultimately change the face of English football forever.

In 1959, the inside forward submitted a formal transfer request after falling out with those at the top of the United hierarchy. But, at the time, the game still operated under the “retain and transfer system”, meaning that clubs could keep a player’s registration for as long as they wished, effectively making it impossible to move. In his interview with UNITED, Eastham remembers the chain of events leading up to his eventual departure, as well as the aftermath, which saw the case make it to the High Court and bring about a transformation in players’ freedom to move between clubs.

As he insists, though, there was far more to his time at St. James’ Park than just his off-the-field falling-out.

“The club had a reputation, and they had some very good players,” he recalled. “Jackie Milburn was there at the time, and he was a hell of a player. He was a good guy, Jackie, and he taught me a few things in my lifetime. He saw that I wasn’t running properly – because he was a big, powerful sprinter – and he showed me what I was doing wrong. He was very good to me in the old days.

“Even when we were down near the bottom, we produced games that were well worth watching. The one I enjoyed the most was against Manchester United, when a lot of the Busby Babes came to town – (Bobby) Charlton, (Albert) Scanlon were all there, and we gave them a 7-3 walloping. That’s a very happy memory.

“We had a good side – Len White, Jimmy Scoular, Bob Stokoe, Alf McMichael, Dick Keith. I still think about them, and I often wonder what happened to them all.”

Eastham also chatted in depth about his time at Highbury, breaking into Alf Ramsey’s England squad, and following the modern game from South Africa – where he has now lived for nearly 40 years.

To read the interview in full, pick up a copy of UNITED from one of several vendors around St. James’ Park for just £3.

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