World Cup Hammers

Continuing our brand new series on this summer, we look back at West Ham United players who have made an impact at the World Cup finals over the years. Today we focus on the second of our three Wembley heroes from 1966, Geoff Hurst...

The hat-trick hero's exploits against West Germany on 30 July 1966 will be etched in world footballing history forever. But it was his performance against the Germans, 157 days earlier, that was destined to set Sir Geoff Hurst on the road to soccer stardom.

For an encouraging England debut in the 1-0 victory over Helmut Schoen's side on 23 February 1966 propelled the prolific Hammers' striker into the World Cup reckoning.

Towards the end of a season that saw him net 40 goals from 59 claret and blue outings, Hurst had arrived on the international scene late. And as he joined up with Alf Ramsey's 27-man squad at Lilleshall, he was still not sure whether he would make the final cut.

"It was a tense time and Bobby Moore couldn't even give me any indication," recalls Sir Geoff, who finally got the Ramsey nod alongside both his club captain and Peters.

Although he did not make the starting line-up in Group One games against Uruguay (0-0), Mexico (2-0) and France (2-0), the eager 24-year-old was finally given his chance in the quarter-finals following Jimmy Greaves's shin injury.

"When Alf announced the team for the Argentina game I just kept thinking: 'My time's arrived.' I'd kept fit, I was in the right frame of mind and I was ready.

"I got spat at, punched in the throat and elbowed, so it was rewarding to score the winner," he reveals, having subsequently nodded home Peters's expertly-flighted cross to secure a semi-final encounter with Portugal.

Bobby Charlton's double over Eusebio & Co. then set up that unforgettable final against the West Germans.

"Even though we went behind to Helmut Haller's opener, it was still early days and when Bobby Moore took a free­ kick a few minutes later, he knew I was always looking for the early one. By going that split-second earlier, I easily had the edge over my marker and headed past Hans Tilkowski.

"I was so exhilarated that I just kept jumping up and down. It was just sheer joy. And when Martin Peters put us ahead on 78 minutes, we thought we were going to win the match."

Wolfgang Weber, however, silenced the home nation as he bundled home a last-gasp equaliser.

"I was physically and mentally shattered," confirms the Ashton-under-Lyme born marksman, who then mustered up the energy to score one of the most controversial goals in the history of the game, 10 minutes into extra time.

"Alan Ball didn't even need to look up as he sent in his cross. I had made my run marginally too early, and the ball was going behind me so I had to control it, take a second touch and then. . . BANG! I had the worst view in the stadium because I had fallen over, so I was sitting on my backside when the ball came down off the West Germans' crossbar. I was thinking: 'Is it or isn't it?'

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It was agony for Sir Geoff, his team-mates and the whole of England holding its breath, while referee Dienst went to consult the Russian linesman Bakhramov.

"Although it was only seconds, it seemed much longer until he eventually gave a huge nod. I've always said it…Roger Hunt - a predator - had the best view and instinctively he'd have tried to put the ball in to claim what could have been the winner.

"Instead he shouted: 'It's there!' and wheeled away. That's good enough for me. I still believe today that it was a goal even though the film is inconclusive. I'll never change my mind about that."

Forty years on, the debate still rages over the strike that famously broke German resistance, but there was absolutely no doubting the last-gasp thunderbolt that etched the name of Geoffrey Charles Hurst into football folklore.

Again, it was another goal straight out of the West Ham coaching manual.

"Mooro showed so much composure, chesting the ball down in his own area with just seconds to go," he acknowledges. "That says so much about his greatness. Jack Charlton was screaming for him to get it out of the ground but Bob hit a great pass upfield. Everything just opened up and I decided to hit the ball with everything left in me. The ball popped up off the turf and I hit it on the sheer bone of my instep. It flew in!

"The whistle to end the match then blew and even an hour after the game, I still wasn't sure whether it had counted.

"It wasn't until I went back out and looked up and saw the 4-2 on the scoreboard, that I realised I'd got a hat-trick.

"If someone had written the story of a World Cup Final between England and West Germany just 20 years after the war - with us coming from behind, losing it in the last minute of normal time and then winning it in extra time - people would have said that fairytales like that didn't happen in football. I wouldn't swap that winner's medal for 10 League championships.

"After a reception at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, five of us went to Danny La Rue's club with our wives. They played When The Saints Go Marching In and gave us a cake. Imagine that happening today.

"Before the World Cup I would phone the local restaurant and say I was a friend of Bobby Moore. Now, suddenly, I could book a table in my own name!

"My wages had been £45 per week and West Ham then offered to double that but I found out that Bobby was on a contract worth £140. I said: 'I'm in the same ballpark now, so I want that.' The club agreed.

"I moved into a £12,750 house in Chigwell in the same road as Len Cearns, West Ham's vice­chairman at the time. We really moved up in the world."

By now Hurst was now one the hottest properties around and that saw Manchester United attempt to blow the British transfer record out of the water.

"Sure I was flattered, but Old Trafford wasn't a lure for me," insists Sir Geoff after Matt Busby's audacious £200,000 bid was met with a fierce 'Hands Off' warning from Ron Greenwood. The terse telegram from Upton Park simply replied: "No."

by Steve Blowers, author of Nearly Reached The Sky - West Ham United 1989-2005, available now in the club store.