Sir Geoff Hurst, our 1966 World Cup winning hero

PUBLISHED: 12:55 28 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:17 20 February 2013

Sir Geoff Hurst, our 1966 World Cup winning hero

Sir Geoff Hurst, our 1966 World Cup winning hero

Can you remember what you were doing on that great day? Katie Jarvis meets the hat-trick hero

There are two 20th century events so momentous so utterly world changing - that everyone of a certain generation can remember exactly what they were doing when they happened.

Sir Geoff Hurst is no exception.

In November 63, when JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, I was at a dog track in Sheffield. It was a Friday night, and we were having a social before a game on the Saturday, he says.

He happened to be recalling this particular occasion at a business lunch once. The chap sitting next to me, who obviously hadnt a clue who I was, turned to me and said, And tell me: what were you doing when the fourth goal went in?

That, of course, is the second of those momentous events. July 30, 1966: the legendary day Sir Alf Ramseys team beat the Germans; the day Geoff Hurst became the first (and, so far, only) player to score three goals in a World Cup final; the day team captain Bobby Moore gallantly wiped his mud-caked palms on his shirt to shake the hand of Queen Elizabeth II and hold aloft the golden Jules Rimet Trophy in front of the 98,000 packed into Wembley Stadium - and a watching world.

Thats also the day of the most disputed goal in footballing history. In the 12th minute of extra time, with the score 2-2, Alan Ball hit a cross to centre forward Geoff Hurst who kicked it into the underside of the cross bar; it bounced down so finely that even 21st century analysis of stills and footage struggles to say whether it was on or over the line. Inevitably, the Germans didnt think it was a goal; the referee Gottfried Dienst wasnt sure. But the Russian linesman Tofik Bakhramov said the goal was good.

The players were on their last legs but, even as the game hurtled to its close, Hurst wasnt finished. One minute before the end of play, spectators - mistakenly thinking the whistle had been blown - began invading the pitch. They think its all over... TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme notably observed. And, as Hurst kicked the ball into the net for his third goal of the match, sealing Englands 4-2 victory, Wolstenholme continued, It is now!

And history, which had been nervously holding its breath, gave a sigh of relief and moved on.

Forty-four years on, sitting talking at Calcot Manor near Tetbury, Geoff Hurst is still the hero. When I rang up Calcot to book, there was an audible gasp from reception staff. Hes recently spoken at Pates Grammar in Cheltenham, and my children notoriously difficult to motivate - came back repeating his stories. An imposing figure, he talks quietly and steadily.

Hell be out in South Africa later this month for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, courtesy of McDonalds; (he works with their programme training volunteer coaches for young footballers all over the UK). And he thinks cheers could be ringing from the England stands once more this summer. Im far more encouraged with the discipline we have in the squad at the moment; the respect the players have for the manager, and the performances on the field. At the very least, were looking to get to the semi-final. Then were up against the big boys the Brazils and the Spains - but, with a fair wind and a bit of luck, you never know.

Who will be the Bobby Moores and Geoff Hursts in 2010?

Were heavily reliant on Wayne Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard; Rio Ferdinand and John Terry at the back: that partnership is the important one.

If they do triumphantly bring home that coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy, the chances are that the press wont find Rooney mowing his lawn the next day - as they once found Geoff Hurst at the semi-detached chalet bungalow where he lived. Well, he says, as though its obvious, Id been away for almost two months, on and off, so it was back to the domestic duties. It was, indeed, a different sort of life back then. Three years before the World Cup win, when he and his fellow West Ham players took a lumbering 14-hour flight to New York for a States-side tournament, Martin Peters showed them all how to get four cups of tea out of one bag by winding the string round and pulling tight: the five dollars-a-day allowance didnt go far even in the summer of 63. And when they won the World Cup, the team voted to share the 22,000 bonus pot equally, getting 1,000 each even those who didnt get to play were awarded the same-size share. Its a far cry from 2010 when Rooneys rumoured to be pushing for a salary a smidgeon short of 200,000 a week.

I think there are people in my profession who look at the amount players earn today and are embittered at the difference. I dont give it a moments thought. We played at a fantastic time: we won the World Cup; Celtic won the European Cup now the Champions League in 67; then Manchester United won. They were great times.

One thing Rooney and Sir Geoff do have in common is a certain kind of background; Rooney was described recently as the last of the street footballers. Certainly that absence of formal coaching in the formative years bred a natural ability; a fresh, untrammelled enthusiasm for the game.

Sir Geoff was born near Manchester in 1941 but the family moved to Essex when he was six, settling on a council estate in Chelmsford. His dad, a toolmaker, was his early hero. Charlie Hurst may only have played for the local team in the Southern League but he spent hours helping his football-mad son kick a ball around the small back garden and train in the local gym. After an inauspicious start the West Ham goalkeeper broke his thumb as a result of a Hurst shot during his trial he began training with the club twice a week and occasionally played for the fifth team. At 15, straight from school, he joined full time: I wasnt naturally gifted like some of the other young players at the club, but I was determined to compensate for that with hard work, he writes in his autobiography, 1966 And All That.

The turning point came in April 1961 when Ron Greenwood joined West Ham as manager. An innovative leader, with a reputation as something of an academic in the football world, he introduced techniques that would herald in the modern game.

He taught us that there were finer values to football than winning simply for the sake of winning, Sir Geoff says. I wouldnt say he was ridiculed for those views but a lot of people felt it was a bit highfalutin. It was Ron who moved the young Hurst from mid-fielder to centre forward; who took the team abroad to test them against foreign teams when competitive European club football was still in its infancy.

And so the young Hurst began to make a name for himself, scoring when West Ham won the FA Cup in 1964, and as part of the winning team for the European Cup Winners Cup the next year. But when he was called up for his England debut by Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966, it wasnt at all certain he would play. His chance came when Jimmy Greaves, Sir Alfs first-choice striker, badly cut his leg in the final group match. Though Greaves recovered, Sir Geoff kept his place. One of the lasting images of Englands victory is of Greaves in suit and tie, watching from the England bench, looking dumbstruck though he later said hed felt nothing but delight.

So what does Sir Geoff particularly recall of that world-affecting game?

My thoughts about the actual game itself are as succinct as they were 44 years ago. The thing I recall about travelling there, apart from the smiling, cheering faces, was a group of people holding up a gigantic banner stating Nobby Stiles for Prime Minister as we entered Wembley Way, he says.

Bobby Moore remarked that, an hour before the game the most important game in his life; the most important game in the countrys life, from a football point of view the dressing room was in chaos. Everybody was in there, from the committee members to the guy pouring the tea. That didnt register with me because I was so focused on what I was going to do.

Mooro, as he was known, was an enigmatic sort of hero. A lot of people thought he was a snob, I guess, or a bit aloof, but he wasnt like that at all. He was, in some respects, a shy man until he relaxed and had a drink. He was captain of the national side and felt he should behave accordingly; he always wanted to dress properly, behave impeccably.

He tells a story of Bobby on a plane in 1969, the only one to stick to orange juice, so committed was he to being picked for the World Cup the next year.

Although he was the same age as me, I looked up to him. Hed achieved success a bit earlier - he was in the World Cup team in 1962. And he was just one of the greatest players weve had in that position; in fact, I dont think we have replaced him: the sweeper, the immaculate defender, that could read the game so well.

And who else of his generation would he rate among the greats?

The best player in my time would be Pel very likeable. Next would be Cruyff from Holland; George Best would be up there in the top half dozen players, albeit with a very short career.

In our team, we had two or three great players of any era. Gordon Banks was the best goalkeeper Ive seen; Bobby Moore at the back and Bobby Charlton, mid-field player; and Jimmy Greavess goal-scoring record is absolutely unbelievable: three goals every four games. Wayne Rooney is a great player, and one who could certainly have played in our time, but his record doesnt compare with Jimmys.

Eusebio of Portugal was up there; Beckenbauer of Germany. Theyre the ones that come to mind.

He constantly praises todays game, different though it is from 40-odd years ago. But its obvious, too, that there are changes he rues. When West Ham won at Wembley in 64, most of the players were Londoners and all of them were English. Theres no xenophobia: the comments are practical ones.

The relationship between the fans and the players is now almost extinct, I guess. Players are closeted away. You used to see a young player coming up from the fifth team, the fourth team; nowadays, all of a sudden, a player is drafted in from Colombia.

Having said that, weve got to balance this by looking at some of the greatest players weve had in our premier league in 15 years; at the top of the list have been foreign players: Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Bergkamp, Canton, Klinsmann, Schmeichel. But with that come some of the less enviable areas, and top of the list is the feigning of injury.

He regrets other modern phenomena: the fact that Manchester United has been bought by new owners who have no affinity with football; that specialist football reporters have largely been replaced by newshounds who want the scandal not the skill. But its still a great game, he says. Still a great game.

All in all, it seems amazing that he could walk away from playing without a backward glance when he retired in the early 80s but he did. He went on to forge a highly successful business career though hes still regularly called on to talk about his footballing days. And charities, such as SPARKS funding medical research to help youngsters - are grateful for his support. Hes highly enthusiastic about a visit he recently made to Bristol Hospital where he saw first-hand life-saving innovations for premature babies.

Inevitably, hes proud of the knighthood he was awarded in 1998. It was an accolade he was grateful to receive on his own behalf, that of his teammates, and of his family Judith, his wife of 46 years, and their three daughters to whom hes so close. All of them, including his four grandchildren, have now settled in Cheltenham.

But no matter what he achieves, personally or commercially, hell never eclipse That Day. So tell us, then: why was 1966 and all that so momentous?

To put it into context of history, it was only 20 years after the war, and there were a lot of older people in the crowd at Wembley who had more painful memories of battling against Germans in another area. My father in-law, who was in the paratroopers in the war, was one.

And the fact that it was an interesting game, particularly the last half hour. Never a day goes by without someone of my generation talking about it. It became a national event, not just a sporting occasion.

And what about the whispers from those cynics who say that Sir Geoff Hurst doesnt really want England to win? That he wants that famous 1966 victory to remain singular?

I just use the word nonsense. Id like us to win the next World Cup 4-0. And, he says, with a teasing glint in his eye, for Rooney and Gerrard to each get two.

  • You can find out more about Sir Geoff Hurst at his website,

  • Sir Geoff is chairman of SPARKS, which funds high quality medical research into childhood diseases.

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