On the 21st August 2013 I wrote my first article for WHTID. Nine days later I wrote my 6th as Sean Whetstone and myself were trying to keep an article a day up for the site, working in tandem due to lack of writers. Different authors have been and gone over the years and after five years I have decided it is time for me to hang up my laptop and say goodbye as this will be my 195th and last article for the site. In the early years I mainly focused on nostalgia, more often than not based on my own experiences following the Hammers in the mid sixties and seventies. When those memories were exhausted I progressed to day to day views and in the transfer windows I put forward the bookies transfer market odds which I translated to perceived chances of players signing for or leaving West Ham. The journey has been one that has seen me make new friendships along the way with meet ups over the years – highlighted by the one at the Upton Park ground hotel that was simply special. It’s been fun writing for you lot, well most of the time lol, and I hope to see some of you again when I am next over, hopefully in 2019. Cheers
I was chatting to a fellow supporter recently who had told me about his reservations about VAR and how he might not attend games anymore should it be introduced to the PL. I reminded him about the times we first started to watch West Ham in the mid 60’s early 70’s. At that time there were only a couple of “divers” in the English game – the rest saw falling over in a tackle as weak in what was a hard man’s game at the time. The limited amount of German football we saw on TV in this era saw this possession game where they passed the ball around for ages without getting anywhere. My thoughts were if we ended up like that in England it would ruin the game. Then we saw the Italian and Spanish football on TV, full of dives and cheating. My thoughts were if we ended up like that in England it would ruin the game. So here we are in today’s game where we see 50 passes between centre backs, more back passes than forward passes and players diving all over the place and over time we have accepted it as normal in the English game. For me VAR is a necessary evil and will be accepted as easily in time as all of the abhorrent parts of the modern game which we have copied in an effort to try and keep up with the rest of the World. For me, if it (VAR) holds up play for three minutes a game and 90% of the time I can go away from a game and know we weren’t “done” by an offside goal or a bad penalty call I think I will be happier than I have been for many a season.
Finally, my favourite player of all time was Bobby Moore. As we all dream of another World Cup win it is fitting that my last piece will be dedicated to our wonderful legend.
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Born on the 12th April 1941 and passing away on the 24th February 1993, Bobby Moore made 646 appearances for the Hammers after making his debut against Manchester United in September 1958. He made his last appearance for West Ham in a cup tie against Hereford in January 1974 before moving on to play for Fulham in the twilight of his career. The footballing career that unfolded over those 16 years was only equalled by the measure of respect he went on to earn throughout the game from his peers and by those who loved to watch him play. In their history, West Ham have been at their best when they have played fast attacking football. It is ironic that the best player to ever play for the club was a defender – but one who the great Pele cited as the best defender that he ever played against.
Bobby was born in Barking, Essex. In 1956 he joined West Ham and quickly advanced through the youth set up. Malcolm Allison was a great mentor to Bobby in the early years and it was his place in the side he took when he made his debut in 1958. Malcolm was suffering from tuberculosis at the time and he never regained his place in the side. Bobby always remembered one piece of advice from Malcolm – “know what you are going to do with the ball before you get it. Always keep a picture in your mind where everyone is, that way when you get the ball you don’t have to think what to do with it.” Those words must have been ringing in his head in the last moments of the World Cup final in 1966. Bobby hung on to those words like it was one of the ten commandments. The hours he spent after training in his formative years, chatting with Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Dave Sexton and John Bond (all of whom went on to be successful managers), listening to their theories and explanations on how the game should be played, together with his natural flair for leadership, moulded the Bobby Moore that was to lead West Ham and England to glory.
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In a World of uncompromising defenders, Bobby shone like a beacon with his reading of the game and the immaculate timing of his tackles. For a central defender Bobby was not great in the air and he certainly was not quick. But there was always a calmness in his play, it was like his brain was doing all the work. He established himself in West Ham’s first team and in 1960 was called up for the England U23 side. Just two years later he was on the plane to Chile for the World Cup. He was so impressive on his debut against Peru in a pre-tournament friendly that he kept his place in the side until England’s exit against Brazil in the quarter finals. One year later, aged just 22, he captained England for the first time when the incumbent Jimmy Armfield was injured. Bobby had become the youngest player ever to captain the National side and only on his 12th appearance for England.
The years between 1964 and 1966 were iconic for West Ham, England and Bobby Moore. In 1964 Bobby lifted West Ham’s first ever FA Cup and he also became the permanent captain of England. He also went on to win the Footballer of the Year in England. In 1965 he again lifted a trophy at Wembley – this time it was the European Cup Winners Cup with a 2-0 win against 1860 Munich. A match that many say was the greatest game of football ever played on the hallowed turf. A year later in 1966 he lifted the World Cup for England in a 4-2 win against West Germany. The third time that he walked up those stairs to receive a trophy at Wembley he became a National hero.
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The three years of Wembley triumphs between 1964 and 1966 were the pinnacle of Bobby Moore’s career. But he was to play on for another eight years at Upton Park. The same successes were never achieved but that is not to say that the rest of his footballing life was dull! Bobby Moore had been Hammer of the Year in 1961 and 1963 and he was to go on and win the honour again in 1968 and 1970. Not only did he win HOTY four times but he also came second four times.
During 1966 Bobby Moore won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He was the first footballer to win the award and he was also to go on and be honoured with an OBE in 1967. England manager Sir Alf Ramsey was to say of Bobby Moore; “My captain, my leader, my right hand man. He was the spirit and heartbeat of the team. A cool calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup.”
Bobby Moore again captained the England side in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. They were considered an even stronger side than the one that had won the Cup four years earlier. However, the tournament was full of controversy and much was made of the fact that England were being dealt some bad cards. A fortnight before the game the England team were doing some shopping in Bogota, Columbia. Bobby was accused of stealing a bracelet and once the story leaked it was World wide news. The whole affair was most unsavoury and did little to help England’s cause. The incident appeared to have conspiracy written all over it. Bobby was arrested and then released but when England had returned back to Columbia after a game in Ecuador, he was arrested again and placed under four days house arrest. Eventually the case was dropped after no evidence was forthcoming. England eventually lost a two goal lead in the quarter final against West Germany and lost 3-2. Gordon Banks, the best keeper in the World at the time, had eaten a “dodgy lasagne” the night before the game and his replacement Peter Bonetti had a game to forget. Nevertheless, Bobby Moore had now missed the chance to lead England to successive World Cups.
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Controversy was to follow Bobby sooner rather than later. On returning to England from the World Cup, Bobby Moore received an anonymous threat to kidnap his wife Tina and hold her to a 10,000 pound ransom. He pulled out of the preseason friendlies but later in the year things took a brighter turn when West Ham rewarded him with a testimonial game against Celtic. However, in January 1971, Bobby was again embroiled in controversy. A late night drinking episode in Blackpool the night before a Cup game came to light a few days after a shock 3-0 defeat. Manager Ron Greenwood was not happy and wanted to sack all the players concerned, including Bobby Moore. The Board persuaded Greenwood that fines and suspensions should suffice. However, the relationship between manager and player had been cool for some time and now it became distinctly frosty.
A year later Bobby was to make the headlines yet again during a League Cup semi-final replay against Stoke at Old Trafford. When Hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson was kicked in the head and had to go off the field, Bobby Moore took his place in goal. Shortly after, Stoke were awarded a penalty and Moore had the audacity to save Bernard’s spot kick. Unfortunately for Bobby and West Ham, Bernard hammered in the rebound. A 3-2 defeat saw Bobby miss out on another chance of Wembley glory. Gee, it was bloody wet that night!
In 1973 against Italy, Bobby Moore won his 108th and last England cap. It was a record number of caps and he also equalled Billy Wrights 90 appearances as captain. Bobby played every minute of every match in those 108 matches. The following year Bobby Moore played his last game for West Ham.
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When Bobby Moore was sold to Fulham in 1974 I doubt many fans would have thought that he would be playing against his former club in a Wembley Cup Final the following year? Of course the Hammers won by two goals to nil, but Bobby had an excellent game. It was his last appearance at Wembley. He went on to play over 100 games for the Cottagers before ending his career in the North American leagues. Bobby had a less distinguished career after his playing days. He managed Southend United from 1984 until 1986 in what were financially difficult times for the club. This had followed short stints managing Eastern AA in Hong Kong and Oxford City. In 1986 he divorced his wife Tina and he married Stephanie Moore five years later in 1991.
It now seems absurd that the only Captain of England to ever lift the World Cup was commentating and analysing games for London radio station Capital Gold in 1990. Nowadays, players that could only dream of equalling Bobby’s stature in the game can earn fortunes in the media – post playing days. On the 14th February 1993 he publicly announced he was suffering from bowel and liver cancer. Ten days later on the 24th February 1993 Bobby Moore passed away aged just 51. Within hours the gates of Upton Park became a shrine as West Ham fans left scarves and memorabilia there as a mark of respect and remembrance. Shortly after his death, what was the old South Bank at West Ham was renamed the Bobby Moore stand as a tribute to our fallen hero.
In the years that have followed, the name Bobby Moore has become iconic once again in the lives of all West Ham fans. In 1993 The Bobby Moore Fund was formed by Bobby’s second wife Stephanie Moore. A charity to raise money for research into bowel cancer and to raise awareness of the disease. In 2002 Bobby was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame. A year later Prince Andrew unveiled a sculpture of Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet trophy near the Boleyn ground at the junction of Green St and Barking Road. Bobby is shown on the shoulders of Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson together with Martin Peters. In the same year he was selected by the FA as the Golden Player of England as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. In 2007 a statue of Bobby was unveiled outside of the new Wembley, looking down Wembley Way. Dubbed the “Colossus of Wembley” the statue contains a moving inscription. “Immaculate footballer, Imperial defender, Immortal hero of 1966, First Englishman to raise the World Cup aloft, National Treasure, Master of Wembley, Lord of the game, Captain extraordinary, Gentleman for all time” As a mark of respect the following year West Ham retired the number six shirt that Bobby made had made his own for 16 years. The last official number six shirt was given to Stephanie Moore.
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The club now use the “Moore than a football club” slogan in much of their advertising. The years since his passing still have us remembering each anniversary of his death. But at the same time it allows those of us lucky enough to have watched him in our younger days, remember the many great times watching Bobby in a West Ham or England shirt. In my first years of going to Upton Park I used to stand down behind the North Bank goal. I can still visualise him standing guard at the near post at corners, so near I could almost reach out and touch him. Always concentrating, always impeccable. Even the way he led the team out holding the ball in an imperious way over the top of his hip demonstrated the man was all class. The little jig he did with Jimmy Greaves after the two of them became entangled in the centre circle during a match against Spurs still makes me smile as I reminisce. Oh they were wonderful days – thank you Bobby.