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Sir Geoff Hurst

 

Sir Geoffrey Charles Hurst, MBE (born 8th December 1941) is a footballer enshrined in the game's history as the only player to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final. His three goals came in the 1966 final for England in their 4-2 win over West Germany at Wembley. Such an achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was only five months and eight games into his international career, and was not considered his country's premier centre forward.

Early career

Hurst was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His footballing career began when he was an apprentice with West Ham United. Hurst was initially a strong-running midfielder but was converted to a centre forward by manager Ron Greenwood. West Ham won the FA Cup in 1964 with Hurst scoring the second equaliser in a tight and exciting 3-2 victory at Wembley. A year later, Hurst was back at Wembley for the final of the European Cup Winners Cup against 1860 Munich, and West Ham won 2-0. The following season he was in the West Ham side which lost the League Cup final on aggregate to West Bromwich Albion, and in February 1966 he was given his debut for England by manager Alf Ramsey.

1966 World Cup campaign

Hurst settled into international football quickly but as the World Cup approached, it seemed clear that his inclusion in Ramsey's squad of 22 would merely be as a different option to the first choice partnership of Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt. Greaves and Hunt were indeed picked for the three group games against Uruguay, Mexico and France, but in the latter game, Greaves suffered a deep gash to his leg which required stitches, and Hurst was called up to take his place in the quarter final against Argentina. With captain Bobby Moore and young midfielder Martin Peters already in the side, it completed a trilogy of West Ham players selected by Ramsey at this most crucial stage of the competition.

Argentina were talented but preferred a violent approach to the game, which saw them reduced to ten men. The game was still tightly contested as it entered its final 15 minutes, but then Peters swung over a curling cross from the left flank and Hurst, anticipating his clubmate's thinking, got in front of his marker to glance a near post header past the Argentine keeper. England won 1-0 and were in the semi finals.

Greaves was not fit for the game against Portugal so Hurst and Hunt continued up front, and England won 2-1 thanks to a brace from Bobby Charlton, the second of which was set up by Hurst. As the final against the Germans approached, the media learnt of Greaves' return to fitness and, while appreciating Hurst's contribution, started to call for the return of England's most prolific centre forward.

Ramsey, however, would not be swayed. Hurst had played well enough to keep his place and, with substitutes still disallowed in competitive football, Greaves' hopes of taking part in the final were dashed. Ramsey informed Greaves and Hurst of his decision the day before the game, and would be conclusively vindicated.

The World Cup final

West Germany took the lead through Helmut Haller early on, but six minutes later Moore was fouled just inside the German half of the field. He quickly picked himself up and delivered the free kick to Hurst, totally unmarked in his run as the Germans regrouped. The goalkeeper was statuesque as the header thundered past him, levelling the match. In the second half, chances went begging for both sides before England won a corner on the right with a quarter of an hour left on the clock. Alan Ball took it, outswinging the ball to Hurst on the edge of the area. Hurst turned to shoot and the ball deflected high into the air, looping down on to the right boot of Peters, who smashed it home.

The Germans equalised with virtually the last kick of the game, forcing extra time. The subsequent 30 minutes would shape the rest of Hurst's life. In the first period, Ball flicked a pass inside to Hurst who struck a strong shot towards goal, falling backwards as he did so. The ball beat the goalkeeper, hit the crossbar and bounced down before Wolfgang Weber, scorer of the Germans' second goal, headed it out for a corner. England's players wanted a goal; the Germans were just as adamant that the ball had not fully crossed the line. The referee, unsure, decided to consult his linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, on the right flank who had waved his flag to get the official's attention. The linesman, from Azerbaijan, signalled that the ball had crossed the line and the goal was given. The Germans went mad and protested with the linesman vociferously, though as the linesman only spoke Russian and Turkish, that was a pointless exercise. Ever since, football reporters and commentators on England games have called in jest for a "Russian linesman" (Azerbaijan was part of the USSR at the time therefore all states under Moscow direction were often incorrectly referred to as "Russian") whenever there has been a contentious decision to make, especially when that decision has not gone England's way.

The debate on Hurst's second goal will last forever. Advances in technology have never conclusively proved that the ball crossed the line, and generally support the opposite view, but Bakrahmov was insistent at the time and continued to justify his decision in decades to come until his death. For his part, Hurst never saw the ball bounce down because his momentum on shooting had taken him backwards on to the Wembley turf. However, he always believed the ball was in the net because of Hunt's reaction - the Liverpool striker was following in as the ball hit the bar and turned to celebrate a goal instead of trying to knock the rebound into the net. Hurst's argument was that a natural goalscorer such as Hunt would have put the ball into the net himself had he been in any doubt.

It looked like a 3-2 win for England with Hurst as the hero with the winning goal but in the last seconds, as the Germans were pushing everyone forward to seek the equalizer, Moore cleared his lines with a long ball over the German defence. Hurst ran on to it towards goal, stating later that he intended just to blast it as far away as he could to eat away valuable seconds. He did rather better than that - the shot flew into the net at the near post, completing a stunning victory and a hat-trick which remains unique to this day. There was no time for the Germans to restart the match. Hurst still emerged the hero of the win but as a result of the third goal, became an icon of world football too.

Last minute

The referee had put his whistle to his lips as Moore shaped to play the final pass to Hurst. He didn't blow it, however, yet some supporters misheard, assumed the game was complete and started invading the pitch. As Hurst collected the pass, BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme immortalised his own contribution to the day with the most famous piece of football commentary ever: "And here comes Hurst, he's got... (notices invaders) ...some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over! (Hurst shoots and scores) It is now! And it's four!

Hurst was immediately jumped upon by Alan Ball, the only other player upfield at the time Moore played the pass. Meanwhile, cameras quickly snapped a bemused-looking Greaves in his suit and tie on the England bench, amazed at the achievements of the man who had replaced him. Greaves would later say it was an emotional reaction but he was just as thrilled for Hurst and England as the other squad players who had not been picked for the final.

After the match

It wasn't until the celebratory banquet that evening that Hurst realised he had scored a hat-trick, assuming that the final whistle had been blown before he'd struck the ball into the net for the third goal. This meant he had not attempted to get the match ball as a souvenir, which hat-trick scorers traditionally do. Haller, scorer of the Germans' first goal, acquired the ball and was seen holding it as he collected his losers' medal. He returned it to England more than 30 years later.

The media were desperate to speak one-on-one with Hurst and they found him the day after the final, back home in London. As if to prove that life had to go on, Hurst was carrying out the mundane task of mowing his lawn when the journalists turned up.

Continuing international career

Hurst continued to play and score for England but at the age of 24, his career had obviously peaked. Nothing in football could ever surpass winning the World Cup and scoring a hat-trick in the final. He won no more honours with West Ham in the 1960s but maintained his England place for much of the period, and was still an internationally-feared goalscorer by the time he was named in Ramsey's squad which would go to Mexico and defend the World Cup in 1970.

Hurst scored the only goal of England's opening game against Romania as England progressed through to the quarter finals, where once again they would face West Germany. Hurst played a part in a goal for Peters which put England 2-0 up, but the Germans forced their way back in and won 3-2 after extra time.

In 1972, West Ham reached the semi final of the League Cup when they played Stoke City over two legs. In the home leg for West Ham, they were awarded a penalty which Hurst took. He blasted the ball with some power for the top corner, but Stoke goalkeeper and Hurst's international team-mate Gordon Banks somehow fingertipped the ball over the bar. Stoke won the tie and ultimately the competition, and Hurst left West Ham to join them later the same year for 75,000 pounds. He had played one game short of 500 for West Ham, scoring 252 goals.

His England career ended the same year with yet another game against West Germany in the qualification stages for the 1972 European Championships, which England lost. He had won 49 caps and scored 24 goals, currently putting him 11th in the all-time England scorers' list.

End of playing career

Hurst wound down his career with Stoke and also West Bromwich Albion, ahead of his retirement in 1976, the year before he was decorated with the MBE. He also played first-class county cricket for Essex, one of only a handful of sportsmen to play both football and cricket at the top level. He tried his hand unsuccessfully as a manager, most notably with Chelsea and also as an assistant to his ex-West Ham boss Ron Greenwood after he took over the England job in 1977.

In later years, Hurst became a successful businessman, working in the insurance industry. He also became much in demand as a pundit and a motivational speaker. In 1998 he was knighted. He is currently Director of Football for McDonald's fast food chain.

Collectables Signed By Sir Geoff Hurst