For our first analysis of a European footballing legend we turn to the late Bobby Moore. The only man who has lifted the World Cup for England was born on the 12th April 1941 in Barking, East London. In September 1958 he made his debut for his local side West Ham United against a Manchester United team still reeling from the Munich air crash several months earlier.
In all he went on to play a further 641 matches for the Hammers. He was without doubt one of the most cultured defenders of all time. With an ability to read the game he always appeared to be at least one move ahead of even the most skilled opponent. During his career he faced all the world’s greatest attackers often managing to tame their undeniable skill.
He made up what he lacked in pace or height with his instinctive positioning and calmness under pressure. In fact his general persona, both on and off the pitch, marked him out as a natural leader. He made his England debut in 1962 in a 4-0 friendly win over Peru. He went on to gain an incredible 108 caps for his country, many as captain.
In his first international year he found himself a surprise late addition to the England World Cup squad that travelled to Chile. He remained in the first team until England’s defeat to the eventual winners Brazil. On May 29th 1963 Bobby Moore captained his country for the first time at the age of 22. In that first game England beat the old Czechoslovakia 4-2. He made the captaincy his own in 1964.
The timing proved to be perfect, not only for Bobby but for his country. In 1964 he guided his club West Ham United to an F.A. Cup final win over Preston North End 3-2 at Wembley Stadium — which could easily be named after him, given his contribution to its legend.
As a result of their cup win West Ham competed in the following years European Cup Winners Cup. He led them to the final where they defeated 1860 Munich 2-0 winning their first European tournament. The final just happened to be held that year at Wembley.
The following year’s World Cup was played in England with the final scheduled at Wembley. If ever there was an omen for a pivotal moment for man and country, this was it. After a slow start, manager Sir Alf Ramsey settled on a side built around the defence and leadership of Bobby Moore.
Behind him in goal was the consistent, and solid Gordon Banks, considered at the time to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Alongside him in defence was Leeds United’s towering centre-half Jack Charlton, older brother of Manchester United’s Bobby who had scored the goals that took England past Portugal in the semi-final.
Also in the team were club mates Martin Peters, and Geoff Hurst. All three West Ham players were destined to write their name in football’s history books when England met West Germany in the final. England won 4-2, after extra time, to lift the trophy for their only ever time. Geoff Hurst scored a hat trick and Martin Peters the other. The final goal came with the last kick of the match when Hurst was put through by a huge upfield pass by none other than Bobby Moore.
It was Bobby that led his team up the Wembley steps to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. In pure Bobby Moore style he was seen to wipe the mud off his hands prior to shaking hands with the Queen who presented the World Cup to him in gleaming white gloves. He became an instant national hero, a star, and a celebrity. He was soon awarded the Order Of The British Empire.
His 50th cap came in a 5-1 England win over Wales at Wembley, of course. A rare disappointment followed when England surprisingly lost to Yugoslavia in the European Championship of 1968. The next World Cup took place in Mexico in 1970 with England automatically qualifying courtesy of their 1966 win. It proved to be an even more eventful tournament for their captain.
When England were in Bogota, Columbia for a warm up match he was arrested following an allegation of theft of a bracelet from a jewellers shop. He was eventually released and the matter dropped but it was an unsettling incident. Despite this he played his customary faultless game throughout the tournament.
Perhaps his greatest England performance came when England lost 0-1 to eventual winners Brazil. His goal saving tackle on winger Jairzinho seemed to personify his class. At the end of the game arguably the world’s greatest player at the time Pele exchanged shirts with the man that had all but tamed the Brazil attack. However defeat against an avenging West Germany followed. Despite the fact that England had been winning 2-0, a remarkable comeback saw them lose 2-3. England were out and flew home having failed to retain the World Cup.
In 1970 the season got off to an equally difficult start when his celebrity status resulted in threats to kidnap his wife Tina. Fortunately the threats didn’t materialise. In 1971 with West Ham's fortunes in decline new signings were needed. Moore was delighted when his good friend, the legendary goalscorer Jimmy Greaves, joined from North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. His fellow 1966 hero Martin Peters made the move in the opposite direction.
However controversy followed when Greaves, Moore, and Brian Dear, along with forward Clyde Best, were spotted late at night in a Blackpool club the evening before an important FA Cup match against the local team. Favourites West Ham were thumped 4-0 by Blackpool who were, at the time, bottom of the division. Moore and the others were fined by the club and the affair hit the headlines. Subsequent accounts revealed that the incident had been largely blown out of proportion by the media.
1973 was a record breaking year in the life of Bobby Moore. Firstly, he beat the West Ham all time appearance record. Then he won his 100th England cap. The following year however he was beaten to a tackle by a Polish forward. His rare mistake resulted in a goal for Poland who duly knocked England out of the World Cup qualifiers. It proved to be the beginning of the end of his international career. His 108th and final cap was won against Italy on November 14, 1973.
In March 1974 he was allowed to leave West Ham in a £25,000 transfer to second division Fulham. I saw his debut for his new club, a 0-4 home defeat to high flying Middlesbrough. Within a few games he was performing to his usual high standard and it was a privilege to watch him play many of his 124 games for the team I supported.
Strangely Fulham drew West Ham at home in the League Cup of 1974-75 winning the match with Moore on board. Little did anyone realise the match was merely setting the scene for an altogether bigger game. With Moore solid in defence Fulham achieved an unlikely FA Cup final place. In a fairytale set of circumstances it would be against West Ham. The final took place at the scene of Bobby Moore’s greatest triumphs, Wembley. The dream didn’t happen this time and West Ham won the cup 2-0.
The next season Fulham added both George Best and Rodney Marsh to their now star-studded side. Bobby Moore ended his British career with an away game for Fulham at Blackburn Rovers. He then had brief spells at San Antonio Thunder and Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League and a few games in Denmark before retiring from playing in 1978.
His management career was surprisingly low key and took in Eastern AA in Hong Kong, non league Oxford City, and latterly Southend United. He ended his days working on radio for Capital Gold and was at an England match against San Marino at Wembley just days before his death.
In April 1991 he had surgery for colon cancer. It was only then revealed that he had suffered from testicular cancer even before the World Cup win. By 1993 the cancer had taken hold and on February 24th 1993 he died aged just 51.
His death provoked a wave of reaction from football fans all over the country who remembered the elegant England captain, the only one ever to lift a trophy for his country. Since then West Ham United have named a stand in his honour and retired his old number six shirt from future use.
In an age when image began to take over from the working class origins of football in England Bobby Moore became a national idol. Immaculate like his football, good looking, and clean cut he was the perfect example to many aspiring young footballers.
His inspiration extended to his private life as well. The fact that he had suffered from cancer early in his wonderful career and had kept it a secret from teammates, friends, and the media set a monumental example of bravery.
His legacy includes the Bobby Moore Cancer Fund which provides financial support in the fight against this disease.
When the new Wembley Stadium opened in 2007 it was decided that a statue should be erected to mark one of the games great players. It was no surprise that they chose Bobby Moore O.B.E. It was his home after all. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.