HELMUT HALLER, Gianni Rivera, Uwe Seeler, Francisco Gento, Luis Suarez, Antonio Rattin, Sandro Mazzola and most famously of all, Franz Beckenbauer.
The aforementioned select gathering of decorated players represented the cream of the crop whom Yorkshire aficionados were able to witness in the flesh when the 1966 World Cup jamboree arrived in the Broad Acres for a festival of football almost half a century ago.
England had won the right to stage the tournament ahead of West Germany and Spain.
Yorkshire’s two venues of Hillsborough and Ayresome Park hosted a total of seven out of 32 matches staged during the 16-team 20-day competition, which ran from July 11 to 30 – ending in the most famous sporting moment associated with these shores.
The star turns in Sheffield were West Germany and Argentina, while in the North Riding, Italy provided the marquee footballing nation to call in at Middlesbrough.
The feast of football started off for the White Rose on July 12 when Helmut Schon’s West Germany took on Switzerland at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground in Group Two – with Hillsborough and Villa Park staging six games involving the West Germans, Swiss, Spanish and Argentines.
Those 36,127 present in the Steel City witnessed a competition first.
Namely the first World Cup finals goal scored on these shores, with the honour going to West Germany’s Sigfried Held just 16 minutes into what proved to be a thoroughly one-sided game against the Swiss.
That distinction was afforded Held after hosts England had drawn 0-0 against Uruguay in the tournament curtain-raiser on the previous night at Wembley – in a home line-up featuring Sheffield-born Gordon Banks.
England’s Yorkshire links were not restricted to Banks, with the squad also including Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Ron Flowers, born in the pit village of Edlington near Doncaster, and Middlesbrough-born Harold Shepherdson, assistant to Alf Ramsey.
Leeds United also famously contained two squad members in Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter, while Sheffield Wednesday’s Ron Springett was one of three goalkeepers.
Another with strong Yorkshire links was former Huddersfield Town left-back Ray Wilson, with the classy defender – who still lives in the Colne Valley – having moved to Everton in 1964.
This county’s maiden World Cup finals match proved a procession with the West Germans dismantling the Swiss in a consummate display of intoxicating football that yielded a 5-0 win, and laid down a tournament marker.
But the name on everyone’s lips as they filed out of Hillsborough was Beckenbauer, with the young Bavarian producing a magisterial display that belied his tender years.
The Bayern Munich prodigy sauntered through the Swiss defence with ease and scored two sweet goals in an explosive World Cup debut.
It may have been much later when he was handed the monicker of ‘Der Kaiser’, but he was king of all he surveyed on that July day in Sheffield.
After Held’s scrappy opener on 16 minutes and Haller’s virtuoso second five minutes later, Beckenbauer, displaying poise, speed and grace, imperiously announced himself on the tournament stage in front of the Kop in the 40th minute.
Beckenbauer started and finished a sumptuous exchange involving Seeler, with a picture-book encore arriving seven minutes after the break at the Leppings Lane end when he surged clear following a piercing run before steering the ball effortlessly into the net.
Haller’s penalty completeed the rout, representing a tough act to follow later on that day when the Soviet Union and North Korea met on Teesside.
A dispute helped pave the way for Ayresome Park to be chosen ahead of St James’ Park, to share Group Four games with Roker Park, due to a lease row between Newcastle City Council and Newcastle United.
A crowd of 23,006 witnessed the Soviets ease to a 3-0 victory with two goals in a minute around the half-hour mark being enough to kill off the plucky North Koreans – in a group which also contained Italy and Chile.
The second group games at Hillsborough and Ayresome came three days later, with the Swiss again tasting defeat in Sheffield, but the bulk of the drama that day was reserved for up north.
Chile dominated the first half in Middlesbrough and led from the spot against North Korea.
But the minnows rallied with their spirit endearing them to Teessiders.
Their endeavour was rewarded with a shock 88th-minute leveller from Pak Seung-zin – with an unlikely story born.
At Hillsborough, the Spaniards – whose line-up included Real Madrid great Gento and Internazionale play-maker and future Spain manager Suarez – prevailed 2-1 against the Swiss.
They did it the hard way in the second half, coming from behind to triumph through second-half goals from Real Madrid’s Manuel Sanchis and Amancio after Rene-Pierre Quentin gave the Swiss the lead in a game watched by 32,028.
July 19 was the date for the final group games with Argentina batting it out with Spain and West Germany for the last eight.
Second-half goals from River Plate pair Luis Artime and Ermindo Onega accounted for the Swiss as La Albiceleste triumphed in Sheffield to book a combustive last-eight clash with the hosts at Wembley.
Meanwhile, the finale to Group Four saw Italy needing a draw to qualify with the Soviets having booked their quarter-final place in Sunderland the previous night.
But a no-substitute rule went against the Azzurri, who played for an hour with 10 men after Giacomo Bulgarelli was stretchered off.
The 18,829 fans at Ayresome, including over 3,000 Italians, sensed there might just be an upset in the air and that was confirmed when Pak Doo-ik put the Koreans ahead just before half-time and they held out to secure one of the biggest World Cup shocks ever.
Yorkshire’s World Cup send-off, perhaps fittingly, ended with another Hillsborough statement on July 23 from the West Germans.
Their supporters, who – according to official tournament commentary ‘waved their flags’ against a Uruguayan side ‘with inflammable tempers’ witnessed a 4-0 quarter-final win that saw Uruguay captain Horacio Troche and Hector Silva sent off in the space of just five minutes early in the second half, to boos from the 40,007 crowd.
Led by Beckenbauer, the Germans scored three times in the last 20 minutes to set up a semi-final with the Soviets.
Haller netted a brace en route to a six-goal tournament haul that was bettered only by Portuguese great Eusebio, with Beckenbauer and Seeler also scoring for the victors, who signed off from Sheffield in appropriate style.