As we get towards the knockout stages of the World Cup we have got into the football spirit at Didcot Railway Centre.

The subway from Didcot Parkway Station into the railway centre is a bit dark and gloomy so we have brightened it up with copies of some lovely Great Western Railway posters.

We couldn’t find any suitable GWR posters so to recognise the 2018 World Cup we have used one from 1966, when of course we beat Germany 4-2 in the final. Happy days!

The poster features World Cup Willie, the official mascot of what the poster calls 'World Championship Jules Rimet Cup 1966' and lists the Group 1 and Final matches (quarter finals, semi-finals and final).

In 1966, the 16 qualifying teams were divided into four groups of four and each group played a round-robin format. In those days it was two points for a win and one for a draw with the top two teams in each group going forward to the knockout stage. Group 1 comprised France, Mexico and Uruguay as well as England.

All but one of the Group 1 matches were at Wembley with one (Uruguay v France) at White City Stadium (built for the 1908 Olympics and with a capacity of over 76,000) because Wembley’s owner refused to reschedule the regular Friday night greyhound racing. It’s a sign of the times that greyhound racing was then seen to be more important than World Cup football.

There were six other venues around the country – Group 2 matches were played at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield and Villa Park in Birmingham; Group 3 at Old Trafford in Manchester and Goodison Park in Liverpool; Group 4 at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough and Roker Park in Sunderland.

The railways encouraged fans to travel by train to the matches and offered cheap off-peak or ordinary return tickets to the Southern Region London Terminal Station.

It’s clear that our Great Western region isn’t really the place for football but the railways played an important role in its development as a spectator sport. When Tottenham Hotspur played Sheffield United in the 1901 FA Cup, it is thought that most of the 114,000 spectators travelled to Crystal Palace Stadium by train.

In London, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal moved to grounds that were near railway stations and Manchester United moved to Old Trafford in 1909 to take advantage of the railway for the nearby cricket ground.

Even in Great Western area a railway station was opened at Ashton Gate in 1906 to enable people to travel to watch Bristol.