Everyone at West Ham United is deeply saddened by the tragic news that legendary Hammer Martin Peters MBE has died at the age of 76.
The 1966 World Cup winner passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday 21 December, following a long and courageous battle with illness. He is the fifth member of English football’s greatest-ever team now sadly lost – along with Alan Ball, Ray Wilson, Gordon Banks and his fellow West Ham Academy hero and great friend, Bobby Moore.
Moore, Peters and 1966 hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst will stand eternal as West Ham United’s three proudest sons – homegrown graduates of the famed Claret and Blue youth ranks, who led the Hammers to European glory in the mid 1960s and then England to world dominance a year later.
Born in Plaistow, east London on November 8, 1943, Martin joined West Ham United as a 15-year-old apprentice in the summer of 1959. An England schoolboy international, he had already been widely regarded as a young player of supreme natural talent, able to excel in a number of positions, both attacking and defensive.
One of the many bright young local prospects brought to Upton Park by legendary scout Wally St Pier, Martin progressed through the ranks under the guidance of Ted Fenton and the famous Academy figures of the 1950s, before Ron Greenwood arrived to take charge in 1961 and further nurture his potential.
On Good Friday 1962, he made his first team debut at the age of 18, in a 4-1 win over Cardiff City at Upton Park, and scored his first senior goal later that year in a 6-1 victory away at Manchester City.
The young Peters quickly established himself as a first team regular in the 1963-64 season, although missed out on an FA Cup winner's medal at the end of the campaign having lost his place in the team to Eddie Bovington on the back of an infamous 8-2 defeat by Blackburn at Christmas.
He bounced back, however, and the following year played a pivotal role as West Ham achieved European glory by beating TSV Munich 1860 in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final at Wembley in May 1965 – the greatest victory in the Club’s history. In the same season he was voted Hammer of the Year for the first and only time.
Exactly 12 months on, England manager Alf Ramsey rewarded Martin with his first senior international call-up for the warm-up games ahead of the 1966 World Cup finals on home soil. His debut came in a 2-0 friendly win over Yugoslavia at Wembley and, just eight weeks later, the fairytale came true as Ramsey’s men lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy with West Ham’s trio – Peters, Moore and Hurst – playing an integral part in the 4-2 victory over West Germany.
Indeed, had Wolfgang Weber’s last-minute equaliser not taken the match to extra-time, Peters’ 78th minute strike would have been England’s winning goal. Instead, Hurst became the only man ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final and Moore lifted trophy to ensure immortality for Ramsey’s team.
The glory of 1966 elevated the three Hammers to superstar status and Peters took his performances to an even greater level, netting a staggering 19 league goals from midfield in the 1968/69 season. Famously described by Ramsey as ‘10 years ahead of his time’, Martin went on to win 67 full England caps and scored 100 goals in 364 first team appearances in the claret and blue.
In 1970, he joined London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in a swap deal that saw Jimmy Greaves head to the Hammers, and went on to enjoy further success at White Hart Lane, before finishing his career with spells at Norwich City and Sheffield United, ending up with a total of 722 appearances and 175 goals in English football.
After being awarded an MBE in 1978 and hanging up his boots in 1981, Martin enjoyed a successful business career in insurance and later regularly attended matches at Upton Park as a Club Ambassador, giving him the opportunity to share the memories and experiences from his illustrious career with Hammers supporters.
The Directors, management, players and staff wish to pass on our sincere condolences at this extremely sad time to Martin’s wife Kath, his children Leeann and Grant, granddaughters Hannah and Meg, and all of Martin’s family and friends.
Further tributes will be published on whufc.com…