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Viva Bobby Moore: Hugh Southon

Filed: Thursday, 21st February 2013
By: Hugh Southon

Hugh Southon knew and worked with Bobby Moore. Here he recalls our legendary skipper...

Bobby Moore was the best of us!

With his passing 20 years ago today, a light went out which has never been replaced. He was the one player who defied the well-loved cliché that no man was bigger than the club... or indeed the country.

Bob was all that was best about this great game and a man who left those whose lives he touched better people... I am forever grateful I was one of those.

There are so many memories of Bob the player. The blood pulsed through the veins just a little faster as he looked imperiously around him among the blood and thunder of '60s and '70s football.

How a smile would spread across the faces of us Hammers fans as he would calmly take two or three opponents out of the game with a simple pass. His ability to dictate the pace of a game; the calm authority he exuded and his supreme charisma at the heart of the team are irreplaceable and insistent memories for me and millions who were blessed to live through the amazing Mooro decades.

Of all the footballing memories he left behind, one has stayed with me for nearly 50 years. On the afternoon of March 14, 1964, Bob led the Irons into their first FA Cup Final since 1923.

That semi-final against Manchester United was to provide a defining moment of Mooro the player! Leading 2-1 against Manchester United on a total quagmire of a pitch where the pitch markings had all but disappeared into the mud, the skipper picked up the ball on the touchline in the dying minutes.

Any other player would have blasted the ball into Row Z but not Bob who amazingly, despite the conditions, played a perfect ball down the touchline for Geoff Hurst to pick his way through and blast home a third after Ron ‘Ticker’ Boyce had scored twice.

Never has Bobby’s game better typified. He was an artist and his Upton Park legacy remains as great and important today as it did ten, twenty years ago.
Nearly 20 years after that great game of football I met him when he became sports editor of the Sunday Sport – the newspaper launched by our owners David Sullivan and David Gold.

I became Bob’s ghost writer each week and the man’s modesty and self-effacing approach to life was soon to show me that he was an even greater man than he was a footballer.

Always gracious, I recall during one conversation he decided to say there wasn’t much to captaining England: "After all what do you do, only carry the ball out!"

He added: "Every player who represents his country should be a captain…you have reached the peak of your career. It should be expected."

He loved West Ham with a passion... his heart never really left Upton Park but there was a sadness the fabulous football we played hadn’t produced more trophies.

But 1966 was the compensation of compensations and he again deflected all personal glory claiming: "It was all about Alf Ramsey. He got the best players defensively and offensively and produced a system to suit them rather than asking them to fit his system."

We watched football together – he as the reporter, me as his writer and his insights into the game were often nothing less than extraordinary. There was never any side to him – what you saw was what you got. I remember leaving myself short of cash at one game - Bob’s hand was the first into his pocket.

I last saw him in the winter of his life. He was drinking tea from a cracked cup in the Hawthorns press room where he was reporting for Capital Radio. He was three months or so from his passing and very ill. But there was no complaining, whinging, whining – he was a man of total dignity and declared himself as "doing fine."

What a way to treat a hero. The man who had won the greatest prize this game has to offer, reporting for a radio station in the west midlands on a winter’s afternoon . Poor… very poor indeed.

A few short months later Bobby was gone, having made one last emotional trip to Wembley to look over and re-live, no doubt, memories of his greatest triumph.

Twenty years later we remember him again, although some of us remind ourselves of the great man every week and wonder what he’d have made of the game today.

Knowing Bob, it would have been with great kindness and affection for I can remember him saying: "Don’t knock anyone for what they earn – if they have managed to reach the top they deserve every penny."

Bob’s contribution to this great club is immeasurable. He was, I believe, the greatest player ever to wear the claret and blue of WHUFC and the white of England.

And on his 20th anniversary I go out where I came in: "Bob you were the best of us."

* Follow Hugh’s regular Hammers updates at www.sportsdirectnews.com, @SDN_sportsnews and @hughsouthon on Twitter.

Hugh also appears as a guest in Episode 3 of the KUMB.com Podcast - the Bobby Moore special.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Reece
05:43PM 21st Feb 2013
''Really wish I was alive when he was, would have loved to have seen him doing us and the whole nation proud on and off the pitch. Even for me, as someone who never saw him as a player or even saw any of him when he was alive, a true inspiration and hero. Gone but never forgotten...''

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