When the staging of the 1966 World Cup was awarded to England, initial plans nominated Roker Park and St James’ Park as the stadia representing the North East. However a dispute between Newcastle City Council and the Newcastle United, led to Ayresome Park joining Sunderland as hosts.
Boro splashed out over £100,000, aided by Government grants and a FA loan, to redevelop the ground. Seating capacity was increased, a roof was erected over the East Stand, and a major refurbishment was carried out in the reception area, including the siting of the now famous Ayresome Park gates.
So it was extremely frustrating for the club that the side itself was relegated to Division 3 for the first time in its history on the eve of the competition. Spirits weren’t exactly lifted when the unknown North Koreans were due to play all three group games at Ayresome.
Their first game versus Russia, watched by 22,568 fans, saw North Korea inevitably drubbed 3-0. The crowd dropped to 15,887 for their next game versus Chile. However the local support was starting to build for the plucky Koreans, partly due to their red strip!
The game saw Chile take a first half lead from the penalty spot but Ayresome Park erupted when Pak Su Jin equalised just two minutes from time.
The other group game saw Italy surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Russia but were still expected to comfortably qualify for the next round by overcoming North Korea. 18,727 spectators, including a sizeable contingent from Italy, soon realised the favourites weren’t going to have things all their own way as they failed to settle.
To compound matters Italy suffered a body blow when Bulgarelli was stretchered off with a knee injury on the half hour mark. As there were no substitutes allowed in those days, Italy were forced to play the final hour of the game with only 10 men.
The goal that shocked the footballing world came four minutes before half time. Pak Do Ik controlled a pass on the right hand side of the penalty area, bursting forward before slotting the ball into the corner of the Holgate End net.
The second half was all one way traffic as the Italians piled forward and created chance after chance. The North Koreans defended valiantly and held on for one of the most famous victories in World Cup history.