George Eastham was a bright and talented footballer of the 60’s and one who was part of the most historical event in English football history, the 1966 World Cup winning triumph, but he was never given an opportunity to play as Sir Alf Ramsey decided to play other men in his position.Embed from Getty Images
He was a bright young footballer when his name forever got the headlines after he went on a strike to get the cap on footballers wages lifted, and how being a bit of a rebel would work in favor for a great number of footballers as a court case was won.
His senior career started in Northern Ireland representing a club named Ards, his dad, George Snr, was the player manager at the two played alongside each other as a seldom seen happening in first team football.
He joined Newcastle as a 20 year old and from that moment in life, he didn’t look back. After four years with the Magpies a move to Arsenal was on. The move was blocked by Newcastle, something that went into a non playing period for a young Eastham, but finally it all was sorted out and a move was on for a fee of £47.000. His days at Arsenal was good as he peaked and was selected for the 1962 World Cup, but never played, and had to wait for his full England debut to appear a year later in a game v. Brazil.Embed from Getty Images
Strangely he was also selected in the squad four years later but never entered the field and had to see everything from a spectators view at Wembley, and of course being involved in two World Cup’s without playing must be difficult to understand, but life is harsh sometimes. In fact strange as it sounds he played his last game for England in the warm up’s against Denmark.
1966 was not just his final year as an England international, he also left Arsenal and joined Stoke City with Tony Waddington being known for signing experienced players to his more and more successful team. Eastham became a key player and his form was great as The Potters became one to count.
After a long wait in a team that fought hard to win a trophy, George Eastham became a vitality on his own scoring the winner v. Chelsea in that memorable 1972 League Cup final, at the time being the oldest player ever to receive a winners medal in this tournament, 35 years and 161 days.Embed from Getty Images
During his latter years at Stoke, Eastham took on a challenge to both coach and play in South Africa, first short stays and returning to England for the season, but from 1973 more or less being involved in the game down in the Apartheid country playing and coaching in the segregated all whites league, NFL.
His father George snr was in charge of Cape Town based Hellenic, and George jr joined and played for Hellenic during the early 70’s, he also had spells at other NFL sides such as Cape Town Spurs and East London United.
He later returned to England to become Tony Waddington’s assistant and was also taking full charge for a while, but his managerial records never hit the heights as he stepped down at Stoke City after a few months in charge, leaving in January 1978.
Eastham returned to South Africa to set up his own sports business and coaching schools in the black community and been seen as a pioneer to bring the sports as a frontier against skin colour segregations in football as the NFL faulted and allowed black players to attend games in this league in the mid 70’s and long before Apartheid was stopped all together, bringing football to the masses as a competition for all colours together.
Eastham might be as known for his footballing skills as satnding up for the “little man” against the “bigger and better” which has paved the way for even more player power as the years of the games have shown. The money in English top flight football today might over shadow the reality of professional football who is not that glamour with most countries and leagues offering modest salaries and benefits far from the money earned in the upper leagues of the World.