A Legend With A Touch Of Class

On the 11th anniversary of Bobby Moore's death, club historian John Helliar pens this moving tribute to a West Ham legend.

As the draw for the FA Cup Fifth Round ties was made the balls decided that either Fulham or Everton would be at home to West Ham United.

The Cottagers' victory and a thumbing through of the record books immediately confirmed that this meeting between West and East London had resulted in the first pairing of the clubs in the competition since the famous so-called 'Cockney' Cup Final of 1975.

The Hammers' trip to Loftus Road for a St. Valentine's Day clash this month also produced a deadlock.

Now, 11 days later, Upton Park has the opportunity of staging for the first time this season a home game in the oldest Cup competition in world football.

Some idealistic romantics might conclude that fate had conspired to ensure the outcome was a stalemate between two clubs who had contested that memorable match all those years ago and who at the time were linked by a player who had not only become a legend in his lifetime in the capital but also on the universal stage that is world soccer.

Others would perhaps concede that coincidences are phenomena that occur for no apparent rhyme, nor reason, explainable by mere mortals such as football fans.

Tonight sees the two clubs meeting once again in the Cup, exactly 11 years on from the day that saw Bobby Moore so tragically taken from our midst at just 51 years of age on 24 February, 1993.

His name is still revered not only by those older fans who saw him play but by the youngest of Hammers supporters who were not even born when he was at the height of his career.

As a West Ham United player, Bobby Moore achieved outstanding success at both club and international level and won some of the game's most coveted prizes.

Bobby achieved winner's medals in the FA Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and ultimately the World Cup, all within the space of two momentous seasons in the mid-1960's; together with a Charity Shield medal after the 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield as well as a runner's-up medal in the Football League Cup.

In 1959, Bobby had also been denied a winner's medal in the FA Youth Cup of that season and it was undoubtedly one of his greatest regrets, as with all Hammers supporters in the halcyon days of the 1960's, that the opportunity to captain a West Ham United team to a League Championship title constantly eluded him.

The nearest Bobby ever got was in the 1972-73 season when the Hammers finished sixth in the old First Division.

Incidentally, it was also the first season that he was ever-present throughout the season in all his time at the club.

Following the Hammers triumph at Wembley in 1964, Mooro, as he is still affectionately known by all those privileged to have met him, had been named their 'Player of the Year' by the Football Writers' Association; it was and still is regarded as the domestic game's greatest individual accolade and at 23 Bobby was the youngest player to ever have received the honour.

Two years later, the international Press recognised him further, after England's World Cup victory, when voting him their 'Player of the Tournament' whilst in the New Year's Honours List of 1967 he was awarded the OBE.

After 544 League and 98 Cup appearances for the Hammers and 108 England caps, 81 of them as captain, Bobby moved across London to Fulham in March 1974.

It was perhaps somewhat ironic that just over 12 months later he played against many of his former team-mates in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

By the time of his retirement from playing some two years later, Bobby's career had spanned some 20 years since his League debut in September 1958.

A report of the 3-2 victory over Manchester United in that debut game included the following prophetic comment:

'The selection of Bobby Moore as left-half proved justified by a display which foreshadows a grand future for a 17-year-old called upon to make his debut against one of Europe's leading sides.'

At the time of Bobby Moore's death one of his most famous adversaries, the legendary Pele of Brazil ­ who himself was similarly also a World Cup winner ­ said that in the period prior to the World Cup Final of 1966 and for the next four years until England's exit in 1970, at the hands of old rivals West Germany, Bobby was quite simply 'the finest defender in the world.'

When one talks of heroes of the stature of Bobby Moore it can at times be difficult to express in words how such a person affects those who were privileged to be either in his presence, have known him or just seen him from afar.

As one who was just six weeks old in 1966 when Mooro lifted the World Cup and 26 years later was himself England captain ­ on the night Bobby was to see his last game at Wembley prior to his death ­ David Platt summed up many people's thoughts with these words:

'A great person in every sense; a footballer of intelligence and vision, a man of dignity and stature.'

Bobby Moore can justifiably be said to be 'the most famous Hammer of them all' but he was much more than that because, as another Hammers hero, Trevor Brooking, so aptly put it, Bobby was 'a legend with that unique touch of class.'