West Ham United legend Martin Peters has passed away at the age of 76.
Born in Plaistow on 8th November 1943, Martin Peters came through the ranks at his local club to sign as an apprentice under manager Ted Fenton in 1959. He made his first team debut on Good Friday, 20th April 1962 in a 4-1 home victory against Cardiff and played five games in the final weeks of the season as the Hammers finished eighth. He scored his first goal on 8th September of that year in a 6-1 win at Manchester City.
Peters’ versatility was such that he played in every position for the Hammers – including in goal in just his third game for the club when replacing the injured Brian Rhodes in a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff. Peters made 39 appearances (scoring nine goals) in 1962/63 and 36 (scoring three) in 1963/64, but would not be involved as the Hammers won the 1964 FA Cup. West Ham finished 12th and 14th in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He would not miss out on another Wembley triumph twelve months later though, as the Hammers defeated 1860 Munich by two goals to nil to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Peters was also voted as the Hammer of the Year at the end of this season, having scored six goals in 47 appearances as the Irons finished ninth.
A further Final followed in 1966 when the Irons reached the League Cup Final, in those days played over two legs. Peters scored in the second game, but West Brom triumphed 5-3 on aggregate. West Ham finished 12th with Peters scoring 17 goals in 60 matches in 1965/66; he was runner-up to Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 Hammer of the Year voting; the pair, along with captain Bobby Moore, bounced back from the League Cup disappointment to lead England to World Cup glory.
Peters made his debut for England at the age of 22 in a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia at Wembley on 4th May 1966, two months before the start of the World Cup. He scored on his second England match, in a 3-0 win against Finland in Helsinki the following month. He was named in the squad for the Finals but missed out on playing in the opening game against Uruguay. He started the next match, a 2-0 win against Mexico, and kept his place for the rest of the tournament. Replicating a move tried and tested in east London, Peters provided the cross for Hurst’s near-post header which settled the quarter-final tie against Argentina (Peters is pictured below in this game) and scored what seemed set to be the winning goal in the Final himself before Wolfgang Weber levelled in the dying embers of normal time, Hurst going on to be the hat-trick hero in extra-time.
Peters scored 16 goals in 49 matches in 1966/67 as the Hammers finished 16th and followed that up with 18 goals in 46 appearances in 1967/68, with West Ham finishing 12th. By the summer of ’68 Peters had taken his tally of England caps to 21, scoring a further six goals against Northern Ireland, Wales, the Soviet Union, Scotland, Spain (in the Bernabeu) and Sweden.
The 1968/69 season would be Peters’ most prolific for the Hammers, as he notched an incredible 24 goals from 48 matches including a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over West Brom in August and a stunning volley past Peter Shilton in a 4-0 home victory over Leicester in November (included in my video below). The Irons finished eighth. Peters was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ for his ability to drift undetected into the penalty area and it was around this period that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey stated that the midfielder was “ten years ahead of his time”. Peters scored three goals in the 1969 Home Championships matches, one against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and two against Scotland at Wembley where doubles from Peters and Hurst gave England a 4-1 win over the Auld Enemy.
1969/70 saw Peters score seven goals in 34 games for the Hammers – however, in March 1970, at the age of 26, he was on the move to north London, as rivals Tottenham paid a world record fee of £200,000 (including Jimmy Greaves) for his services. His last goals for the Hammers came at Hillsborough on 10th January 1970, when he scored twice in a 3-2 win; his final match for the club was a 0-0 home draw with Ipswich on 14th March 1970. Peters had scored 100 goals in 364 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United.
My video below contains nine of Peters’ 100 goals for the Hammers – against Olympiakos (away, December 1965), Sheffield United (home, February 1966), Stoke (home, October 1967), Tottenham (home, September 1968), Chelsea (away, September 1968), QPR (home, November 1968), Leicester (home, November 1968), Derby (home, November 1969) and Tottenham (away, December 1969).
Peters’ run of success would continue at White Hart Lane as he won the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup in 1972. He scored his last England goal on 19th May 1973 in a 1-0 win over Scotland at Wembley and played his last game for his country against Scotland too, in a 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park. Peters won 67 England caps, scoring 20 goals and captained his country on four occasions.
My video below shows 16 of Peters’ 20 England goals, scored against West Germany (World Cup, July 1966), the Soviet Union (home, December 1967), Scotland (away, February 1968), Spain (away, May 1968), Sweden (home, May 1968), Northern Ireland (away, May 1969), Scotland (two goals, home, May 1969), Northern Ireland (home, April 1970), Colombia (two goals, away, May 1970), West Germany (World Cup, June 1970), East Germany (home, November 1970), Malta (away, February 1971), Scotland (home, May 1971), and Scotland again (home, May 1973).
At the age of 31, Peters left Tottenham in March 1975 for a fee of £50,000 to join former Hammers team-mate John Bond, who was manager of Second Division Norwich, and went on to help the club secure promotion to the top flight in his first few months at the club. The Canaries claimed 10th spot in the First Division in 1975/76 and remained a top flight side under Bond for the rest of Peters’ five-year spell in East Anglia. Peters scored 50 goals in 232 matches for the Canaries and was twice voted the club’s Player of the Year. He left Carrow Road to become player-coach at Sheffield United in August 1980 – Norwich were relegated the season after he left.
Peters ended his professional career with total statistics of 220 goals from 882 games when departing Bramall Lane in June 1981. He later worked in the insurance business and the motor industry and spent time on the board at Tottenham and as a matchday host at Upton Park. Peters was acknowledged with the Lifetime Achievement Award by West Ham United in 2015. He is pictured below with Sir Geoff Hurst during the final season at Upton Park.
Martin Peters passed away on Saturday 21st December at the age of 76 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I am sure all WHTID readers will join me in sending condolences and best wishes to Martin’s family and friends at this sad time.