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Sir Geoff... The embodiment of all our hopes

Gambling’s Chris Lines met England’s ‘66 World Cup hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst for a chat about his career. Sir Geoff’s been asked about that famous July day – not least the hotly debated second goal – a million times in the 44 years since. So rather than ask him “did it cross the line?”, we tried to delve a little deeper for some things you perhaps don’t know about our country’s legendary frontman

Nice to meet you, Sir Geoff. Is it true that you didn’t realise you’d scored a hat-trick in the World Cup Final well after the game, by which time a West German had gone off with the match ball?

It’s true that I didn’t realise straight away that it was a hat-trick. As the ball went into the net, the referee blew almost in an instant. It was only after we’d gone back to the changing room and I put my suit on, walked back out into the stadium and looked up at the scoreboard that I realised. And even then I wasn’t really aware of the significance of the fact that I’d scored a hat-trick in the final. It was the first time it had been done, and it’s still the only time it’s been done.

Helmet Haller [of West Germany] went off with the ball. From my point of view, as is still the standard now, if you score a hat-trick in a game then you get the ball. Realising that I had in fact scored three motivated me to go and check where the ball was. We had seen quite clearly that Haller had stuck the ball up his shirt. He was quite a portly fellow, so you’d barely notice.

And did you ever get yours hands on it?

Well, not until thirty years later! To cut a very long story short, there was a campaign in The Sun to get the ball back. I was sitting in a car going to Shrewsbury for a speaking engagement and I had a call from my agent saying that The Sun had been on to him and they wanted me to go to Germany to go and get the ball back. The interest had been generated by an article that FourFourTwo magazine had published. I told my agent that I’d do it.

I carried on my journey and then got another call from the agent saying The Mirror had called, and that they wanted to fly Haller over here to give the ball back to me, and my fee would be the same as The Sun were offering. So that was even more appealing, obviously. So we did the piece and it was all very cloak-and-dagger; The Sun were trying to get some snaps. The ball was brought over by helicopter. We did the handover at Waterloo Station and Haller turned up on a motorbike to pass it over. The ball was then on display at Waterloo for a time. Haller got £80,000 for that!

The following Monday, The Mirror wanted to do a couple more shots of me recreating the goals. So we did that, and The Sun were again trying to film from a distance! So that was a fun weekend.

Legend has it that you were mowing the lawn when journalists came round to interview you the day after the final. Do you think that shows how life has changed for modern-day footballers? It’s hard to imagine Wayne Rooney or Jermain Defoe reacting that way to a World Cup Final hat-trick these days.

Yes, that’s true. I was mowing the lawn and washing the car. The timing of the ‘66 World Cup was very late in July, so we were due back at training for our club sides. This meant that the celebrations of winning the World Cup were cut short very quickly.

I had some indication that my life would change about a week later when Radox, who were sponsoring an award I’d won, sent a big limousine to my house to pick me up. But I’ve always tried to keep doing the same things and live a normal life. My wife’s a private person and we’re still able to do the things we enjoy. Some people who are well known can’t do that. I wouldn’t like to be constantly in the media glare and certainly my wife wouldn’t stand for it.

Aside from the ‘66 final, what was your favourite goal for England?

That’s a good question. I’d probably say it was scoring my first goal for England, which was against Scotland at Hampden Park in front of 134,000 people. We won 4-3 and I scored the first.

I got 24 goals for England and Wayne Rooney’s already surpassed that and he’s younger than I was before I even made my debut!

And what about your favourite moment of your club career?

On a personal note, my favourite game was when I scored six against Sunderland. I got a hat-trick in each half and we won 8-0. That hasn’t been done in the league since. Trevor Brooking got one as well, and when he scored I was tying my bootlaces up! Bobby Moore got one too.

You had a decent spell playing for Seattle Sounders at the end of your career – what was the vibe like in US soccer at this time, with lots of great players plying their trade over there?

The idea was that we were trying to establish the game over there. But it’s very difficult culturally to introduce a new sport. ‘Soccer’ is played a phenomenal amount at grassroots level over there, but when kids get to a certain age they go on to play other sports.

People were talking about going over there and creating a new career and life for themselves, but I never saw it that way. For me it was about going over for a wonderful paid holiday at the end of my career with my wife. That’s how I saw it if I’m honest. I always thought it would be hard to get the game to take off over there. And if Pele and Franz Beckenbauer couldn’t manage it, then even someone with the international profile of David Beckham is going to struggle.

How did you enjoy your spell as Chelsea manager at the turn of the 1980s?

There were no real highlights. Chelsea were a club in disarray. They were in the Second Division during that period and in a lot of debt. But we still came very close to getting into the First Division. We lost out on goal difference in the last game of the season. What the experience did for me personally was make me realise that I didn’t want to stay as a manager. I had a year out of the game and found I could earn a living outside of football. A more sensible and secure living, earning just as much money and seeing more of my family than I could as a manager.

Your father was a lower league footballer. What can you tell us about his playing days?

He played for Oldham, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers at centre-half. He wasn’t very tall for a defender though – I get my height from my mother’s side of the family.

Who is the most underrated player you ever played with or against?

Well that’s hard one. Somebody who was highly regarded and who probably should have played for England was Billy Bonds. He was both cultured and aggressive as a player.

Do any current players remind you of yourself in their style of play?

Probably not, because I wasn’t really a traditional centre forward. I didn’t lurk at the far post like most strikers do. I went near post very often and glanced the ball in. I was quite mobile and had good vision because I’d been a midfielder before. I could strike the ball with both feet. I was very much a two-footed player like Bobby Charlton. My dad had taught me to work my left foot in the garden as a kid – even the hat-trick in ’66 was one with the left foot, one with the right foot and one header. So I had the basics, but I learnt the art of scoring goals under Ron Greenwood. As soon as he put me up front I scored 14 goals in 28 games from a standing start.

Did the 1966 squad like to gamble?

Well firstly, we didn’t have much money to bet with. There also wasn’t really a big culture for it. It was only cards when we did. We didn’t play for a great deal of money. It would only be during the odd quiet moment at a hotel or an airport. I remember playing in Mexico during the 1970 World Cup, when we had time off. We were only playing for a dollar a point though.

Do you ever have a bet now?

I do occasionally, yes. If I have a recreational bet, it will normally be on the Grand National. I had a bet this season, with somebody who I won’t name, on whether Manchester City would finish in the top four of the Premier League. I said that they wouldn’t manage it. But it wasn’t a big bet.


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