With his hat-trick in the Final of the 1966 FIFA World Cup™, Sir Geoff Hurst’s place in footballing legend became assured. As he admitted to FIFA.com in an exclusive interview, his life has not been the same since that day – although he never tires of recalling the achievements of that England team.
As well as providing an insight into a couple of the squad’s key characters and his recollections of the day itself, the 72-year-old was eager to impress how wonderful it is for a country to host the World Cup. Hurst also tells us why he would show faith in England’s young Lions, and explains how football got him into trouble with the law!
*WATCH the video associated with this article to see Sir Geoff Hurst relive the day of the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final as he recalls what the squad did the night before the game, Sir Alf Ramsey's words for the England squad before extra time, whether the ball crossed the line or not – and what was better: the 1966 World Cup Final or his wedding day!
FIFA.com: To win a World Cup, you need quality players, but how important is a closely-knit group?
Sir Geoff Hurst: When you listen to players talking about their success in World Cups, they always touch a little bit on the team spirit: the friendliness, the camaraderie. That was exactly the same in our case too, and an important ingredient for us winning the World Cup. Within a World Cup-winning team, you need strong characters and we had them. Jack Charlton was a strong character, but I think Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball were the heartbeat of our team. They were both young players, Alan was only 21 and you would say that he was our man of the match in the Final.
What about Bobby Moore, the captain of the side?
Well, he's irreplaceable. I was fortunate enough to play with Bobby at West Ham and England for well over 15 years and he was one of the country’s great, world-class players. He was a fantastic player, a great learner of the game. He took decisions on the field; he took responsibility and was a great leader. He wasn't a leader who shouted or screamed, but led by example in how he worked, how we performed, how he played the game. In the England team over the past 50 years, I don't think anyone in that particular position has been better. You need a player at the back in a World Cup winning-team who can play the ball from defence. He epitomised the success of the team. I'm very proud to have called him a team-mate of mine.
When people talk about great British coaches, the names of Ferguson, Busby, Shankly and Stein get mentioned. But just how good was Sir Alf Ramsey?
First of all, he was a fantastic football man. He'd been immensely successful before England at Ipswich Town. With a group of fairly old players he'd won the third, second and first division titles in five years. That itself, even if you discount his England career, was fantastic. He could get results. I think he was very astute tactically and I think that the discipline that we had under him was a very important ingredient of our success. I would say that he was the most powerful man I've come across in terms of management in 20 years of football and 20 years of business. He had a tremendous aura about him. All the players had the utmost respect for him for his ability and for him as a person.
In a few months time Brazil have the chance to play host to the world as you did in 1966. What was it like to be involved in a home World Cup?
The World Cup is a great event and to host the World Cup in your own country is absolutely fantastic. I don't think at the time you realise how big it is, you're far too interested in getting picked and playing. But having seen other World Cups as a spectator, it's fantastic. I think I've been incredibly lucky. As a player, I was playing and at my peak at the right age to be involved in 1966, which was a complete coincidence. Had they hosted it at any other time, such as eight years later or eight years earlier, I would have been too old or too young.
How do you think England will fare at Brazil 2014?
Well, we qualified quite well under Roy Hodgson. I would say that the team are going through a transitional period at present. We've got one or two brilliant older players, such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and this may be their last World Cup, but we also have some exciting young players coming through. Some people say that this World Cup is too soon for those young players but I would strongly disagree. There is a tremendous opportunity for young players to make their mark between now and the World Cup, both in the Premier League and the international fixtures before the squad is selected. If I look at the history of England's success in 1966, Martin Peters didn't play for England until two months before the final, I didn't make my debut until February 1966 - and both of us scored in the final.
So when people say it's too early, I say the history shows that it isn't the case. The attitude of young, hungry players such as Martin Peters and Alan Ball made a huge difference to the team, and I hope that the youngsters are given and grasp the same opportunity. However, they also have to earn it.
And finally, Sir Geoff, it’s well known that you played both football and cricket at a high standard, but only one of those sports got you in trouble with the police as a youngster. Tell us about it.
Yes, that’s true! On the days when I played football on the streets as a teenager, I did get into trouble. Where I lived, almost all the boys played football apart from one who was more interested in model aeroplanes. The ball finished up in his garden one day and he called the police! Quite unbelievably we ended up in court and we got fined one pound. Can you believe it?