The Nostalgia series at last gets to the greatest player ever to wear a West Ham shirt. 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 a 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.
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.
During those years he was at the forefront of footballs World stage. He was the Golden Boy of English football but he took it all on with an air of gracefulness. Both composed and impeccable off the field as well as on, he was also the first to training and the last to leave. Bobby Moore was at the height of his career.