Sir Geoff Hurst

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Sir Geoff Hurst Pencil Portrait
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Last update: 6/3/16

Sir Geoff Hurst, England’s World Cup hat trick hero, has experienced the highs and lows of life. One of only eleven English players to lift soccer’s greatest prize, and a Knight of the Realm since 1998, his life has also been marred by financial mismanagement and personal tragedy.

Interviewed by Esquire magazine in 2014, he was ambivalent about the subject of religious conviction.

‘A long time ago, my late father-in-law said, “I have fallen out with God.” That’s an expression I use when I’m asked about religion; my daughter died in 2010 [after a 10-year battle with a brain tumour]. When you see your daughter suffer for a long time, you’re not sure whether there is anybody up there. I’ll leave it at that.’

For the England manager Alf Ramsey, winning the World Cup made a rod for his own back. The win confirmed a nation’s preconceptions about a game it had invented. We believed we were the best – lifting the Jules Rimet trophy seemingly confirmed this fact – and yet nearly fifty years on, only now are people realising that 1966 was a blip, by an under-achieving football country, and not something to do with divine right.

At the time, the success seemed to breed complacency born of a superiority complex. The press constantly moaned about the national teams’s way of playing, instead of cel­e­brating the fact that we had won the tournament at all. From today’s perspective, we’re simply grateful it happened and rightly so. There are those who suggest that we probably wouldn’t have won it away from home, and yet I choose to disagree. Notwithstanding that freakish quarter-final defeat at the hands of West Germany, Ramsey’s squad would, and should, have competed against Brazil in the 1970 final. Success in Mexico at high altitude, would have confirmed the nation’s pole position in the world game.

For Hurst, his sudden elevation to the world stage would make him one of the most, if not THE most closely marked forward in the English game, in an era where protection from referees was minimal. For anyone of a certain age, the names of soccer’s hard men trip easily off the tongue – Graham Williams (WBA), Ron Harris (Chelsea), Peter Storey (Arsenal), Norman Hunter & Billy Bremner (Leeds), Tommy Smith (Liverpool), Dave Mackay (Spurs) – men totally committed to ensuring that if the ball went past them, then their opponent wouldn’t. By 1971, the 29 year old Hurst, bedevilled with recurring back problems and by his own admission, would no longer feel as powerful as he had five years earlier. This sentiment was due in no small part, to the weekly punishment meted out by the aforementioned, and those defenders of a similar ilk.

http://www.westhamstats.info/westham.php?west=2&ham=345&united=Geoff_Hurst

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2257176/Sir-Geoff-Hurst-finds-West-Ham-8-0-Sunderland-tape-Twitter.html

Sir Geoff was born near Manchester in December 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 trial with West Ham when their goalkeeper broke his thumb parrying a shot from the youngster, the young Hurst 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 wasn’t 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 usher 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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t at all certain he would play. His chance came when Jimmy Greaves, Sir Alf’s first-choice striker, badly cut his leg in the final group match. Though Greaves recovered, Hurst would keep his place. One of the lasting images of England’s victory is of Greaves in suit and tie, watching from the England bench, looking dumbstruck, though he would later insist he felt nothing but delight at the final whistle.

From the age of seven until I was thirteen, he was my favourite player. It goes without saying that young boys seek role models in life, and soccer heroes are an obvious choice. Even more pleasingly, he has remained a true sporting hero, and on the two occasions I met with him in 1972 and 2006, he was gracious with his time, and both happy to talk and sign my memorabilia. Inwardly I was smiling at the second meeting, for whilst I was far from dumbstruck, I did feel ten again, if only for the twenty five minutes I spent with him.

We share similar views on the state of a national game, for whilst he finds much to praise in today’s world, different though it is from 50-odd years ago , it’s obvious, too, that there are changes he rues. When West Ham won at Wembley in ’64 and ’65, most of the players were Londoners and all of them were English. There’s no question of xenophobia, his comments are merely 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.”

Hurst was essentially a one club man, or rather he would have been with a little more forethought.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2323687/Programme-Notes-West-Ham-v-Sunderland.html

http://thegreensoccerjournal.com/sir-geoff-hurst-england-world-cup

Recommended viewing

West Ham v Sunderland (19/10/68)

http://www.geoffhurst.com/video.html

Hurst’s six goal contribution to an 8-0 demolition of Sunderland in a First Division game, watched by a 24,718 crowd. Underlining their virtuosity and inconsistencies in equal measure, Greenwood’s artisans would lose the return fixture 1-2 only two months later!

The match was captured on 8mm film, issued as a limited edition tape, and thankfully retained over many years by a Hammers fan, who responded to a public appeal about its wheareabouts from the man himself.

The rather restrained celebrations are in marked contrast to the over rehearsed routines now hoisted upon us by soccer stars, seemingly oblivious to the mere attainment of an end result for which they are more than handsomely paid.

Recommended reading

1966 and all that (Headline) 2001

It’s all here and more, as Sir Geoff takes us through his event packed life.

What distinguishes this sporting autobiography from so many others is the near equal weight given to his time outside the game. Running concurrently with a rewarding period assisting Ron Greenwood and the England national team (1977-82), Hurst also briefly flirted with football management, first with Telford and then later with Chelsea. Having narrowly failed to steer the blues back into the top flight in 1979/80, he would be sacked the following season and amazingly, was able to walk away from the game without a backward glance. Forging a successful business career in insurance, he would eventually develop a secondary revenue stream as an after dinner guest speaker, talking about his footballing days. In view of the fact that his financial reward for winning the World Cup was a bonus of £1,000, it would be churlish to deny him this latter day business opportunity.

Under construction

Upton Park Memories (2015)

‘Upton Park Memories’ captures the essence of the club’s spiritual home for the past 112 years. Printed in hardback and lavishly illustrated throughout its 372 full colour pages, UPM is a riveting compilation of personal stories, anecdotes and shared experiences as recalled by 200-plus West Ham fans and a number of players, including heroes such as Sir Trevor Brooking, Sir Geoff Hurst, Billy Bonds, Julian Dicks and Paolo Di Canio.

Contributions from fans span all 11 decades of The Boleyn years – the oldest was 100-years-old and saw his first game aged six in 1910 – and each has a unique story to tell. In the book, a supporter recalls one of the two biggest professional disappointments in Hurst’s career. The first had occured eighteen months earlier in Leon when England blew a two goal lead against West Germany to crash out of the World Cup in a 2-3 quarter final defeat. The second would represent the nadir of his club career with West Ham and hasten his departure from the East end.

Dave Spurgeon: “If I am tied down to one choice only, then not for the happiest of reasons it has to be me being among that throng of fans on the North Bank when Stoke’s Gordon Banks saved Geoff Hurst’s penalty in the dying minutes of extra-time (15/12/71) to deny us a place in the League Cup final at Wembley. Inside 60 seconds every Hammers fan there that night rode the emotional rollercoaster of euphoric anticipation through to dismayed disappointment and disbelief, pretty typical over the decades, one could say.”

“There was celebration and noise when the penalty was awarded (Banks dropped a cross and then brought down Harry Redknapp while trying to retrieve the ball) akin to an actual goal being scored. As Hurst placed the ball on the spot the crowd and mood seemed to change in a matter of seconds. Even the more exuberant and vocal elements on the North Bank steadied themselves in anxious anticipation. Hurst had scored from the spot against Banks in the first leg. Could he do it again with the Twin Towers in sight?”

Hammers heartbreaker: Gordon Banks diverts Geoff Hurst’s penalty over the bar.
“My vivid memory is of looking down the length of the pitch to see Tommy Taylor and John McDowell crouched down, covering their eyes with their hands facing the South Bank and not daring to watch. Some prophet of doom from about three feet behind me on the terrace then shouted: _“Give it to Robson, for f*** sake, Hurstie, we all know where you’re gonna f****** put it, let alone Banks!”

“Well, Gordon Banks certainly knew, and as the ball flew off Hurst’s boot at such power and speed, I could not actually say I could follow it with the naked eye. My eyes, however, did not see the desired result of the ball smashing the net, only it’s return from orbit via Gordon Banks fists and the look of disbelief on Geoff’s face.”

“My ears were filled with groans and foul mouthed curses from 10,000 fans around me. I was probably too numb to shout anything but if that prophet of doom from behind me had been identified, I may well have had a word in his ear.”

That miss would lead to the eventual disintegration of the rich seam of talent that had emerged at Upton Park throughout the previous decade. European qualification would, however, have provided a stay of execution. League Cup success was perhaps the least the club deserved that season. Eliminating Leeds Utd in an Elland Road replay, Liverpool and Sheffield United (then atop the old First Division), the portents had looked good.

Surfing

West Ham Memorabilia Collection

http://theyflysohigh.co.uk/articles/4557353326

Some interesting artefacts from Hurst’s thirteen year career with the Hammers, including a long forgotten hat trick in the final of the London Five-a-Side Football Championships held at Wembley’s Empire Pool on Wednesday May 10, 1967. For Hurst and his captain Bobby Moore, it would be their fourth consecutive Wembly trophy win.

http://theyflysohigh.co.uk/5-a-side-wembley-1967/4572432378