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 round off our focus on the 1966 Wembley heroes by featuring the greatest Hammer of them all, Bobby Moore...

He had already climbed Wembley's 39 steps to collect the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup trophies in successive seasons. And now Bobby Moore was hoping to make it a sensational hat-trick as England hosted the 1966 World Cup finals.

But amazingly, the want-away Hammers' skipper was not even eligible to play for his country.

For his Upton Park contract had expired on June 30 and Moore was refusing to sign a new one in the hope that a lucrative close-season move to Tottenham Hotspur would follow.

Not contracted to any Football League club, Moore was 'technically' unknown to the Football Association and could not, therefore, lead their national side into the tournament.

England boss Alf Ramsey frantically summoned his Hammers' counterpart Ron Greenwood to the England HQ at Hendon Hall, where a rocky compromise of a one-month extension between player and club was grudgingly agreed.

"Alf had the tournament all mapped out," wrote the 108-times capped central defender in his autobiography Bobby Moore after ensuring his participation in the competition. "He knew the players and the matches needed to win the World Cup and then he went and blurted out that we would win it.

"The manager took stick from his critics but the spirit in the camp had been good from way back. We believed we had a great chance, Alf believed in us and we all thought we would show them that we could do it."

England, however, unconvincingly stuttered through their Group One matches against Uruguay (0-0), Mexico (2-0) and France (2-0) and, as they prepared to line up against an antagonistic Argentina in the quarter-finals, Ramsey warned them: 'Gentlemen, you know the sort of game you have on your hands this afternoon.'

Moore admitted: "We accepted in our guts that it was going to be hard, maybe brutal."

But superbly marshalled by their unshakable skipper, England had yet to concede a goal and despite the 10-man, South Americans' heavy handed approach, Martin Peters's pinpoint cross enabled Geoff Hurst to head the Three Lions into the semi-finals.

"Those two knew each other's play by instinct," he acknowledged after seeing a decider designed at Chadwell Heath and executed at Wembley secure a semi-final showdown with Portugal. "It was a priceless goal and taught people the value of having good club understandings in the England team.

"Now at last the newspapers thought we could win the thing and the crowd were in there with us, too, sensing we were on the verge of a World Cup final."

And although Eusebio's late penalty finally broke that impressive four-match run of clean sheets, Bobby Charlton's earlier double salvo had booked a place in the final against the West Germans.

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Waking on matchday to find his distraught room-mate and future Hammer, Jimmy Greaves, packing his bags after losing his place to Hurst, the 25-year-old found himself emotionally torn.

"I still believed that Jimmy could have won us the cup but Geoff had come in and done well, too. We all felt keyed up and confident, but at 2:30pm there were still about 100 people in our dressing room and I hadn't even started to get changed!"

After Hurst wiped out Helmut Haller's early opener, Peters then looked to have secured victory, only for Wolfgang Weber to force a late 2-2 draw and extra-time.

Ramsey tried to lift the spirits of his drained troops, famously telling them: 'You've won it once, now go and win it again.'

"Alf was right and we went out and overpowered the Germans," observed Moore, who saw Hurst bag his legendary hat-trick in that famous 4-2 win. "There was debate over Geoff's second goal. I was 50 yards away and in no position to offer an honest opinion but, just from Roger Hunt's reaction, it had to be a goal. He was just a yard out when the ball came to him yet he made no attempt to knock it in.

"I've watched the film a million times but still don't know how the linesman could decide. I wouldn't have liked a goal like that to have been given against England!

"I'm glad we got the fourth one, though, because that has always taken pressure off the linesman's decision," added Mooro, who set up the breaking Hurst's treble with a last-gasp, ice-cool, upfield pass. "That was another West Ham job - a diamond of a goal."

Ever the gentleman, Barking-born Moore may have been physically and mentally exhausted as he climbed those steps to become the first-ever Englishman to collect the golden, 14-inch high, Jules Rimet trophy but still his manners did not desert him.

"When I got about two yards from the Queen, I saw her lilywhite gloves and thought: 'My God, my hands are filthy! I was more worried about scraping the mud off them than getting hold of the World Cup."

Fittingly voted the Outstanding Player of the Tournament, the imperious Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore was not being conceited - just honest in a self-assessment of his performance - when he concluded: "I enjoyed the World Cup so much and you can only do that if you know you're doing well. Sometimes your team can win a trophy but you feel you could have done better personally. A player knows best of all when he's on top of his job and, looking back, I can't recall putting a foot wrong. What more can I say?"

Now all that the Hammers' world champion trio of Moore, Hurst and Peters had to do was retain the trophy at Mexico '70…

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