FOR a nation that is always more than happy to wallow in the nostalgia of 1966, we’ve never been particularly good at honouring the group of players who remain the only Englishmen to have lifted the World Cup trophy.

A couple of years ago, I hosted a question-and-answer session with Sir Geoff Hurst and asked him about the celebrations that followed England’s historic win over West Germany more than half-a-century ago.

“It turned into a bit of a funny night,” said England’s hat-trick hero. “The FA had organised a bit of a dinner for us, but they said it was only for the players – wives and families weren’t invited. Quite a few of us didn’t really want that, so three of us went with our wives to a nightclub in the West End. We’d won the World Cup a few hours earlier, but I don’t think a lot of people knew who we were.” And the following day? “I went back home and mowed the lawn.”

The Northern Echo:

Different days perhaps, but the lack of formal recognition for England’s World Cup winners is a theme that continues to be a blight on the game.

In an era when honours are seemingly dished out at the drop of a hat, and when Wayne Rooney is encouraged to transform an international fixture into a glorified testimonial, it is surely unacceptable that Gordon Banks was allowed to die this week with only an OBE to his name.

A campaign to get Banks what would have been a thoroughly-deserved knighthood was gathering pace in the months before his death, spearheaded by David MacDonald, the executive director of Uttoxeter Racecourse, but will now have to be shelved because the rules governing the honours system dictate that knighthoods cannot be awarded posthumously. That also means that Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson and Alan Ball – the other World Cup winners to have passed away – will never get the recognition their achievements merit.

It is too late for four of England’s true ‘golden generation’ to be lauded in their lifetime, but there is still time for the other seven, or to be more precise, the other five given that Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst are already knights of the realm.

It seems an extremely arbitrary process to have selected that duo ahead of their team-mates, especially when a number of those who have not been awarded knighthoods have help raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for a range of different charitable causes since they retired.

The five living non-sirs – George Cohen, Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters and Roger Hunt – are currently battling against varying degrees of ill-health, and while they would probably state that a knighthood is not at the top of their list of concerns at such a late stage of their lives, they surely deserve one final celebration of their achievements.

The tributes paid to Banks in the last few days have been universal and heartfelt, but it is always such a shame that a final act of recognition only comes with death. Had he been alive, Banks would no doubt have been humbled by the love and affection that has been showered on him this week, but while his family will hopefully be able to take comfort from the reaction to the passing of England’s greatest-ever goalkeeper, it would have been fitting had Banks’ final days witnessed a similar public show of admiration.

It is not too late to arrange that for his team-mates, and while the Football Association are planning to mark Banks’ death with a series of tributes when England return to action with a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic next month, they should also be mounting a public campaign to ensure England’s remaining World Cup winners all die as Sirs. Almost 53 years after they were shunned in the immediate aftermath of their World Cup success, that is the very least they deserve.

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England's captain Joe Root gestures during day four of the third cricket Test match against West Indies at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan).​

THIS has not been a vintage Test series for the England team, but Joe Root still deserves immense credit for the way in which he conducted himself during his side’s victory over the West Indies in St Lucia at the start of the week.

It wasn’t so much that Root finally found form with the bat, although his match-winning century was a welcome change from the abject batting displays that led to England losing the opening two matches of the series, it was more that the England captain displayed genuine leadership as he challenged West Indian pace bowler Shannon Gabriel about his homophobic comments.

Gabrial claims he asked Root if he “liked boys”, prompting Root to reply that, “there’s nothing wrong with being gay”.

It might seem like a trivial matter, but while there have been major moves to improve sexual equality within sport in the last few years, it is still extremely rare to see such a high-profile figure calling out an example of homophobia. That the England captain was prepared to do so reflects well on him as a person and also on the atmosphere and environment he has helped create in the dressing room.

THE British Horseracing Authority have been criticised for the way in which they have dealt with the recent outbreak of equine flu, but to my mind, the governing body got things just about right.

They didn’t know what they were dealing with when three horses at Donald McCain’s stables tested positive for the disease, so while some trainers have criticised the decision to postpone all racing for five days, a robust response was vital to enable the BHA to get a handle on how far the problem had spread.

Once they ascertained the issue was restricted to just two stables, they allowed racing to return with the proviso that horses had to have been vaccinated within a six-month period in order to be allowed to run. That has meant some high-profile horses being unable to take up their intended engagements this weekend, but that is a price worth paying if it prevents further problems in the future.

THE biggest fixture in North-East sport this weekend? Newcastle Falcons’ trip to Bath in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday afternoon.

It has got somewhat lost amid the excitement of Falcons’ European campaign and the start of the Six Nations, but the North-East’s premier rugby union team are in grave danger of dropping out of the top-flight given they find themselves four points adrift of their rivals at the foot of the table.

There is still time to address the situation with ten games to play, but the clock is ticking and Falcons desperately need to start reproducing the form that saw them finish in the top four last season. With Premier Rugby openly talking about ring-fencing the Premiership in the not-too-distant future, dropping into the Championship would be a disaster for Falcons as well as the wider North-East game.