Friday night's "home international" at the City of Cardiff Stadium stirred those of a certain generation to recall the shock and sadness which shrouded a previous World Cup qualifier in the city between Wales and Scotland at splintery old Ninian Park 27 years earlier when the Scotland manager and mightiest of tartan touchline totems, Jock Stein, collapsed and died at the end of the game.

England's World Cup qualifier against Poland on Tuesday evokes far less ghastly and disturbing reminiscence in the so-long-lumbered faithful follower of football and the remembrance of the two qualifying ties of 1973 provides a warning for Roy Hodgson's England.

Truth is that Sir Alf Ramsey's men 39 years ago were eliminated not so much through the fabled goalkeeping gymnastics of Poland's apparent "clown" Jan Tomaszewski in the second leg at Wembley on 17 October but in England's earlier defeat in Katowice when two goals were given away by England's now suddenly rickety preux chevalier Bobby Moore. It was seven years after their 1966 World Cup victory.

Almost 40 years on, the three other "home" nations have long settled, in truth, to being permanent qualifying cannon fodder, but if England fail to qualify this time will they ever make the final stages again? Any World Cup future has to be with Team GB.

Nor would a single Rest of Britain squad be obviously overweighted with Englishmen. After Friday's match in Cardiff I was diverted with some doolally daydream doodles which helped down a few amiable late-night slurps. Well, oldie-style formations and semi-colons in place, of course, wouldn't this all-time England team of mine – Shilton; Armfield, Cole; Bryan Robson, Moore, Edwards; Matthews, Greaves, Shearer, Charlton, Finney – probably be well beaten (sure, eight times out of 10, I hear you brag up there) by this bunch of immortals from the north – Cowan; Gough, McGrain; Bremner, McNeill, Baxter; Johnstone, Gallacher, Dalglish, Law, Liddell.

A victory soon trumped, however, for Wales would play the decider and I reckon these princely history boyos red in tooth and claw would resplendently do for the cocksure Scots – Southall; Barnes, Ratcliffe; Keenor, Charles, Giggs; Cliff Jones, Ford, Rush, Allchurch, Meredith. What an attack. What an attitude. Grand Slammers, for sure. Ah daydreams.

And dreamy nostalgia … even outer space must know by now that this October has been a significantly super-duper month for seminal anniversaries. Half a century ago on 14 October 1962 a US spy plane photographed Soviet nuclear missile launchers in Cuba and a near-end-of-world crisis shuddered the planet. Three days earlier on 11 October the pope opened the Second Vatican Council and, they say, the worldwide Catholic church was never the same.

A week before on Friday, 5 October the Beatles released their first record: four scallies, three words, two chords, one tin harmonica and Love Me Do was to change the souls and spirits of a generation. On the very same day Monty Norman's far more orchestrally vibrant and original title music introduced the premiere of a new film, Dr No, about a British spy named Bond, James Bond.

It has been useful to keep tattered juvenile diaries. That 5 October 1962 came a red-letter phone call. I was a scruffy cub on the Slough Observer. Could I cover a county hockey match in the town in a couple of weeks' time? Three hundred and fifty words "on the whistle". I was thrilled. The Manchester Guardian represented the shining light of all ambition. Bucks 0 Surrey 4 – Surrey Slow To Find Form – and though they ruthlessly cut a few of my florid flourishes, 335 of my very own words were in print next day (18 October). Hey Ma, I'm in the Guardian! And in no time it was to be my home-from-home for just days short of a half century – because this week, as you see, I've taken a new guard and moved house.

For all Castro and the pope, 007, the Beatles – and me – I've heard no mention in the log of those famous 50 Octobers ago of a truly profound event. After a dismal World Cup in 1962, England needed a new team manager.

A handful of likely candidates – Jimmy Adamson, Bill Nicholson, Stan Cullis – all declined the poisoned chalice. On 1 October the despairing FA international committee agreed its chairman, upright Graham Doggart, should write to Ipswich Town's Alf Ramsey – or rather to his chairman, John Cobbold of the brewing family, a gay, endearing, usually and cheerfully tipsy millionaire, to ask permission to speak to Alf. That was the way then.

No reply for a week. On 10 October Doggart telephoned the patrician's stately pile at Kirton, near Felixstowe. The butler said Mr John was away rough-shooting on his Scottish lands for another fortnight and nothing could disturb him. Persuasive dialogue made the butler agree to pass on a Scottish phone number, but it was still a full week later – with Fleet Street hysterical for action – that Doggart of the FA met Ramsey at Portman Road on 17 October.

And English international soccer was never quite the same for a whole string of Octobers thereafter.