A smartass once said that nostalgia is like a grammar lesson where you find the present tense but the past perfect.

And in these tensest of times, with little football to distract us, we’re overdosing on rose-tinted memories of past cup finals, title wins and international tournaments.

But much of that past wasn’t perfection.

ITV’s recent Euro ’96-fest elevated a mediocre tournament to a pivotal ­cultural event on a par with Woodstock.

And as the bunting goes up for the 30th anniversary of Italia ’90, it has hailed a landmark World Cup that ushered in football’s modern era.

Paul Gascoigne's tears provided one of the iconic moments of Italia 90

But Gazza’s tears, Cameroon and Jack Charlton’s plucky Irish boys apart, there wasn’t much to celebrate.

It averaged 2.2 goals per game, which is still a record low, and the dour final ­between West Germany and Argentina was virtually ­unwatchable.

If we want to hail a glorious year for football – as seen through a neutral’s eyes on this island – let’s go for one that had the greatest team, finest goal and save, a semi-final beyond compare, a near clean-sweep for British sides in Europe and one that truly ushered in a new era: 1970.

That FA Cup Final – and the epic replay needed to ­settle it – between Chelsea and Leeds was as absorbing, brutal and breathtaking as we’ve witnessed.

The Everton side that won the league by nine points was one of the classiest of English title-winners and, stylistically, years ahead of its time.

Chelsea players celebrate their 1970 FA Cup final triumph

Celtic beat Leeds in a ­momentous European Cup semi-final, dubbed ‘The Battle of Britain’, only to cruelly lose the final in extra-time to ­Feyenoord.

Joe Mercer’s great ­Manchester City side may have been reaching the end of their glory days, but still won the Cup Winners’ Cup to go with the League Cup.

And ­Bertie Mee’s emerging Arsenal pulled back a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Anderlecht to win the Fairs Cup.

However, the club season was a mere palate cleanser for the Mexican World Cup feast that followed.

It was the first time football’s celebrity culture dominated the news, as golden boy Bobby Moore’s Bogota bracelet saga absorbed the nation in a way Becks and Gazza could later only dream of.

Alf Ramsey’s world ­champions went to Mexico as second favourites behind ­Brazil, boasting arguably the most talented England squad ever sent to a tournament.

Despite losing to Brazil in Guadalajara, the game was a classic. Gordon Banks pulled off a peerless save and Moore, who repeatedly thwarted the magical ­Brazilian attackers, gave one of the all-time great defensive displays.

England’s unfortunate, Banks-less ­defeat to West Germany was a sickening blow, but an ­enthralling game that ­confirmed the arrival of one of the world’s greatest strikers, Gerd Muller.

While a Brazil of ­Clodoaldo, Jairzinho and Rivellino were running riot against Uruguay in one semi-final, the other between Italy and West Germany went down as The Game of The Century, with five goals scored in extra-time as the Azzurri edged a 4-3 thriller.

And then the final in the Aztec Stadium, the most sublime exhibition of team football by Brazil and the most majestic goal ever seen, a ­nine-man move thumped home by Carlos Alberto after a perfectly weighted pass from Pele.

Bobby Moore and Pele at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico

It was Pele’s third World Cup, 12 years after winning his first one.

And we lapped up every minute of it back home on free TV, with Good Morning Mexico on the BBC at breakfast time (an unheard of innovation for football fans) and a new phenomenon called the ITV Panel, which many of us looked forward to as much as the matches.

It consisted of Brian Moore trying to keep in check Malcolm Allison, Bob McNab, Pat Crerand and Derek Dougan, who seemed ­permanently provocative and politically incorrect – and ­occasionally paralytic.

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And all of it seen for the first time in glorious colour. Even though, for most of us, that meant standing outside Radio Rentals marvelling at the future.

Happy 50th birthday, 1970.

You were the best.

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