Some people are on the pitch…they think it’s all over. It is now, it’s four!
Those legendary words uttered by Kenneth Wolstenholme back in 1966 as Geoff Hurst scored the final goal of his hat-trick, the only man to do so in a Word Cup Final as England beat West Germany 4-2 to win the World Cup on home soil. Today, I’m attending a World Cup 50th anniversary evening with Geoff Hurst.
The 1966 hat-trick hero is in Mansfield giving a talk and the chance to meet a legendary World Cup Winner doesn’t come along very often, especially in England…. when you consider that England fans have had 50 years of disappointment since from alleged under performing and overpriced superstars (although in Euro 96, they played some great football) .
Sir Geoff Hurst started his career at West Ham, scoring 242 goals in 500 first team appearances winning the FA cup and the European Cup Winners Cup. Internationally, he scored 24 goals in 49 appearances for England and appeared in two world cups. All the more remarkable when you consider that Hurst only made his first intentional call up in February 1966 and selected by Alf Ramsey for the final over Jimmy Greaves. 50 years since winning the World Cup, I’m here to listen to him talk about those experiences, that hat-trick in 1966 including ‘that’ goal off the crossbar and over the line, controversial even to this day.
I’m not sure if Geoff Hurst can remember a previous visit to Mansfield, when as a lowly Third division side, they beat First Division West Ham 3-0 with their World Cup stars Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst playing. He’s more than welcome though as the standing ovation greets him. He clearly does though as he starts his talk by saying the next person to come up to him with another match program from that night will get punched, doesn’t remember that night, never been to Mansfield before and to rub salt in the wounds, doesn’t remember missing a sitter from 6 yards.
Sir Geoff Hurst starts by giving us some memories over the years and how does he still get recognised, TV is such a strong medium that he still does get recognised and that some people have no idea who he is. Some years ago he took a black cab to Heathrow. He had a large broadsheet newspaper for that journey but kept getting the feeling that someone was looking at him, so he lowers the newspaper and the taxi driver had the rear view mirror on him and all Geoff Hurst could see were his eyes. Goes back to the newspaper, after a few minutes lowers the paper again to see those pair of eyes, which went on all the way to the airport. Now in the tunnel at Heathrow and the cabbie finally looks over his shoulder and says “Oi mate, give us a clue?” I said “Sir Geoff Hurst MBE, I played 500 games for West Ham, scoring 250 goals, I’m still honoured to have represented my country on 49 occasions scoring 24 goals and still the only man on the planet to score a hat trick in the World Cup final. To which the cabbie replied, “No your prat, which terminal do you want?”
He’s often asked about that (1966) team and why they were successful and thinks it’s because they had team spirit and camaraderie, a great backbone on the team, Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton who was the most two footed player he has ever seen and up front, even though he didn’t play in the final, Jimmy Greaves who in 57 games scored 44 goals, still the best ratio. “An absolute honour to play with Bobby Moore who could read a game like no other, very composed, never lost his rag.” Alan Ball probably the most passionate personality to have represented their country.
Sir Geoff wants to talk ‘that goal.’ Even to this day, people are still fascinated by it. “I hit the ball on the half turn, it bounced behind the keeper, I fell on my backside and probably had the worst view in the stadium as it came down from the cross-bar.[…]The person with the best view was my great striking partner Roger Hunt, instinctively as a striker if you are not sure, you will attempt to put it back in the net. He put his arm in the air, shouted its a goal and that’s been good enough for me for the past 50 years.”
It’s been a great evening, given some great anecdotes and memories of team spirit; sharing the money between all 22 players equally, how they the team thought they should have won the World Cup in 1970, and of course that final in 1966 with the admission that the last great goal, with some thanks to Alan Ball, Hurst was tired, knew the game was nearly over and just wanted to whack the ball with every ounce of strength he had with his left foot, if it goes beyond the bar, into the crowd, by the time the ball boy gets it back, the game would be over. “I mis-hit it and it flew in.” Then it was all over. A great evening.