Wednesday 08 Dec
Updated Wednesday 08 Dec 17:30
Interviews

Sir Geoff Hurst selects his 'Eighty at Eighty'

Sir Geoff Hurst

 

Sir Geoff Hurst has marked his 80th birthday by releasing a new book celebrating 80 sportsmen who have influenced and inspired him throughout his life and career.

The West Ham United legend and scorer of the most famous hat-trick in the history of football has penned Eighty at Eighty, an A-Z of masters from Ali to Zidane, reflecting on the 80 sportsmen who have most inspired and motivated him over the years.

In an exclusive chat with whufc.com on his milestone birthday, Sir Geoff said: “I’ve written the book with Norman Giller, a very experienced writer and historian, who was at my first game, and has written many books down the years – many with Jimmy Greaves – and so we go back a long way.

“The idea was to pick 80 sportsmen who, in some way or another, have been a part of my life. Some I have met, some I have admired from afar, some have been personal heroes, some have been very good friends.

“It’s an interesting concept, and a nice way of marking my 80th birthday. We didn’t want to create any kind of countdown or ranking - that was impossible, and so the 80 sportsmen are just listed in alphabetical order, starting with Muhammad Ali – who happens to be the figure I would pick out of the 80 as the greatest.  

“One story that isn’t in the book – my wife has family in Chicago and, many years ago, we were flying out there to visit them. At the airport, waiting to collect our bags from the baggage carousel, and on the other side of the carousel facing us was Muhammad Ali, with around half a dozen of his entourage. And it was probably the one and only time my wife has wanted to speak to somebody famous and ask for an autograph!

 

Sir Geoff Hurst selected Muhammad Ali as one of his 80 at 80
Sir Geoff Hurst selected boxing legend Muhammad Ali as one of his Eighty at Eighty

 

“He had an aura about him, as did Michael Jordan. One of the things I have watched during the pandemic was The Last Dance – charting the success of the Chicago Bulls under Jordan. An astonishing story.

“And then you have the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Sobers, Roger Federer – who I took my grandson to watch play. Watching him warm-up just ten yards away from us – it was one of the best days of my grandson’s life. Or Jim Laker, who took 19 wickets in a Test match – I played my only game of first-class cricket with him for Essex, against Lancashire.

“It has been a real pleasure to reflect on so many of these sporting memories throughout my life and I hope those who read the book enjoy it as much. I must say, though, the biggest compliment I got was in relation to the image on the front cover. As you would expect, it is an image of myself, taken very recently. One of the critics reviewing the book asked: ‘Why have they used a picture of him when he was 40, rather than one of him now at 80?’ As you can imagine, that led to a great deal of laughter within the family!”

 

Sir Geoff Hurst with David Moyes and Mark Noble at London Stadium
Sir Geoff Hurst with David Moyes and Mark Noble at London Stadium

 

As he enters his ninth decade, Sir Geoff is certainly defying his age - and as busy as ever, with the publication of his new book, a popular UK theatre tour in full swing, and regular involvement as the patron and supporter of several charitable causes. He remains in fantastic condition, thanks to a daily fitness regime, and admits that following the fortunes of his Club this season has certainly added to the celebrations around his 80th birthday!

“I’m involved in one or two of these new video messaging services, when fans ask me to record messages for their family and friends, and it is fantastic to be able to speak in such glowing terms about West Ham with them doing so well,” he says.

“The win over Chelsea at the weekend was a lovely early Birthday present. The transformation under David Moyes really has been something special. We’re almost halfway through the season, fourth in the Premier League, into the last 16 of the Europa League, and the team are playing superbly well.

“Whenever I’m asked about 1966, I always point out the fundamental strength was that the team had such a great camaraderie and togetherness. It was so vitally important to our success then, and the same rule applies in the game today.

“West Ham are now a classic example of a group of players who are playing under a good manager, and playing for the Club and the team. You could probably pick other teams in the Premier League who have more expensive players, and maybe more technical players, but there is a spirit and resilience about West Ham that is just as, if not more, valuable. It’s just fantastic to see the Club doing so well now.”

*Eighty at Eighty by Sir Geoff Hurst is published by Pitch, and available in print and electronic version here.