Geoff Hurst, 1966 and all that

Sir Geoff Hurst and Mark Noble, two West Ham legends from the opposite ends of the past 60 plus years just about salvaged my sanity these last couple of weeks.

I don’t know about you lot, but it’s taken a while to get over three home defeats in seven days - deflating, disheartening and distressing come to mind. And not helped by the ceaseless abuse of David Moyes by the West Ham social media Taliban, who want the man gone, and soon.

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Relentless idealists who believe they know what’s best for us all. It’s a worthy debate, but don’t you dare present a different viewpoint or you are blocked for your pains. Not a good look, folks.

I am sure someone out there with far too much time on their hands will tell me the last time we lost three successive home games in a week. I couldn’t be bothered to be fair, it’s all got a bit too painful to be searching for historical misery to go with the current calamity.

In these times you need a boost, to delve into our past, in search of an uplift. And Hurst and Noble, soon to be installed as our new sporting director, came along at just the right time.

Our fans queued round the block at the Newham Book shop in Upton Park to get their hands on Noble’s just released autobiography and to meet the great man to have their copy signed.

It’s bound to be a great read, basically the inside story of the last 18 years or so of the club's history. 550 appearances, the good and the bad. Ghosted by the excellent Jacob Steinberg of the Guardian, it’s a book I have long looked forward to and will no doubt be in every Christmas stocking.

My copy, pre-ordered, arrived on publication day from those good people at Amazon. I then discovered that my daughter-in-law had acquired a copy, via WH Smiths, for my son’s birthday. Signed. Vexed isn’t a strong enough word.

And then along came the best documentary I have ever seen about Sir Geoff. The predictable World Cup build-up material on our current greatest player’s career. I’m sure Ken Brown will not be too offended by that view. The Wembley hat-trick man, and all that entails for the nation.

But there is so much lovely stuff about his West Ham career in the Sky production, "Hurst, the first and only". Films and pictures I had never seen before, an incisive interview by West Ham fan Matt Lorenzo which revealed a lot about the man who to me has always been a stoic, reserved, typically English, hero.

But the loss of his brother to suicide and his eldest daughter to cancer revealed much more about the man and the pain he has suffered.

It must be tough to always be in the public spotlight, always the man for the World Cup interview. Plus he has ‘lost’ so many of that ‘66 England side of late; Martin Peters, Roger Hunt, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles in recent years, Alan Ball and Ray Wilson some years ago and of course England and club team mate Bobby Moore.

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Only Sir Geoff, George Cohen and Sir Bobby Charlton now survive from that great day in ’66.

Seven of the 15 West Ham players from the great Hammers sides that won the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in ’64 and ’65 are also no longer with us. That’s a lot of public sadness to cope with and you could see it etched in Hurst’s face as the programme unfolded.

As football writer Paul Hayward said in the programme, "Geoff Hurst has been living in his own museum for 55 years". In times of need, and every time we dream of lifting the trophy again, we turn to Hurst: "He is the comfort zone of the England game".

There is nothing new to tell about the great man, it was just packaged superbly by Sky with interviews with Brian Dear, Noble, Harry Redknapp and Declan Rice, plus the eerie voices of old interviews with Banks and Peters. It brought tears to my eyes, so what does it do to Hurst, 81 next month, when he is wheeled out ever four years or so for his memories?

Even the £200,000 transfer offer from Matt Busby that Ron Greenwood rejected by telegram and the sad way Hurst left West Ham for Stoke, you can still see how much that hurt. "I had three good years left, one in three goals per game", was the poignant quote from Hurst.

Interesting too were his reflections of his relationship with Jimmy Greaves, the man Geoff replaced in the England side back in ‘66. It was Jimmy who put a word in to help Hurst get a job selling insurance, but that Wembley day always seemed to be avoided by the pair. The film of Greaves walking onto the pitch after the World Cup victory speaks a million words. A bitterly disappointed man robbed of his greatest moment.

Hurst admitted that he only realised Greaves had a serious drink problem the morning he heard the former Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham star had been found in a ditch.

All in all, a documentary well worth watching. They say they don’t make them like Sir Geoff anymore and I agree. I was lucky enough to witness those two West Ham cup finals in the 1960s and saw the ’66 final—plus being at Wembley for the France and Mexico group matches.

Those were the days when you could rock up to Wembley and pay on the gate. No tickets, no segregation, and I can still see that Charlton 30-yarder crashing into the net in front of me.

My old fella had, for some reason, booked a holiday in Rhyl while the tournament was going on. I know, I know, but those days you had to take your two weeks holiday when the factory shut down. You had no choice.

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So the Argentina quarter final and the Portugal semi-final were watched in our guest house. Dad managed to get us back to London for the final, just. Those '64,'65 and '66 years were the best football years of my life and I never tire of boring folk with these stories.

And it was all made possible by Sir Geoff, an ordinary wing half converted to one of the best strikers England have ever had and by far the best striker West Ham have had. Bar none. He scored over 250 goals in 500 plus games for West Ham, our very best.

For those who suggest Frank McAvennie, or Paolo Di Canio, or Tony Cottee? All excellent players, I agree but this guy who I adored as a young fan, has world, FA and European winners medals - the vey best.

I’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane at a time when everyone who can string ten words together has an opinion about our current situation. Which brings me back to Mark Noble.

On 2 January he will be installed in his new role. We will see what that means. I can’t see it being a front of house, ceremonial, hand-shaking role, he wouldn’t want that. So, on the assumption that Moyes will still be manager come January, How much say will Noble have in our future? He was a good ally for Moyes, and we have missed his presence off the pitch.

The bottom line though, despite the constant tidal wave of ‘Moyes out’ devotees, is can David Sullivan afford to sack him? Moyes is halfway through a three-year contract reputed to be worth £3m a year. That’s an awful lot of compo, £4m plus and then there’s the getting rid of three, maybe four, backroom staff. All under contract.

And then we have Mark Warburton’s position to consider, the man, it is alleged, who would have become Birmingham manager had Sullivan’s mate completed the takeover.

It’s all very messy and no help to the transition of power being activated by Danny Boy with his financial people already in place. Would Kretinsky want Moyes? Does he have the clout or money to hire a top class European manager or would his choice be restricted to the Czechs he knows? It's not what the 'Moyes out' folk want, is it?

You can forget Pochettino and Tuchel. Some sources already saying they have been approached by intermediaries and said "no". It's interesting to note that Tuchel will have to leave the country soon with his visa running out. Oh, the joys of Brexit.

I also note that our government are allowing Kretinsky to increase his 20 per cent holding in Royal Mail to something more substantial. It seems jobs and Saturday deliveries could be at risk. I’m liking Danny Boy less as we get to know him.

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Everything I see now suggests the club is in a state of inertia, that could run right through until Kretinsky takes over. Even if the deadline passes in March that allows Sullivan to sell without all that messy taxation business, will he do so and go quietly?

The more you delve into all this, the less chance you see the club sacking an experienced manager who had given us our best two seasons in Premier League history. I keep asking these social media geniuses, who do you want, where do they come from, how much will this malarkey cost? Then I get blocked!

I accept the 2022 record is dreadful in the league, but half of the problem was that the club put Europe ahead of anything else - and it almost worked. Then another Europa League spot was lost in 30 minutes of nonsense at Brighton.

Moyes almost got it right. Would the 'Moyes out' lot be moaning if it was us not Manchester United in the Champions League? I doubt anyone would care about style, negativity etc if that plan had worked.

So has Moyes lost the dressing room? I hear from decent sources that he may have, but with six weeks of nothing to encounter and with our lovely boys off to the World Cup, I’m not sure it matters.

Rice did a decent TV interview after the Leicester defeat suggesting that pressure on Moyes was nonsense, that he had dragged us through two seasons to where we are now. Of course the westhamway-ers mafia immediately evoked the Mandy Rice-Davies defence (look it up) with the "He would say that, wouldn’t he?" response.

But having watched Rice for a while now he doesn’t give the impression he would say anything he didn’t want to. He’s too honest for that, they're just not his qualities at all.

No dressing room is perfect. The ones on the bench, the ones who want new contracts, the ones who want out for whatever reason. But I didn’t get the impression on Saturday against Leicester that our team didn’t give every ounce for the cause.

That didn’t deflect the vendetta against Moyes, but it all now just washes over us. I’ll be amazed if he is not still here in the New Year - but Arsenal, Brentford, Leeds and Wolves next will be crucial.

You can see now, surely, why I would rather reminisce about our heroes from the past. If only Geoff Hurst could play up front for us now.

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