“Bobby Moore — he defended like a lord. Let me tell you about this man. He would watch the ball, he would ignore my eyes and my movement and then, when he was ready and his balance was right, he would take the ball, always hard, always fair. He was a gentleman and an incredible footballer.” Pele
Legend is a word that which is bandied about a lot these days. A word that is commonly used in the context of a mere friend or acquaintance that’s just overcome some extreme dare or challenge. In a football sense, the word legend can have a very broad spectrum, much like that of the term “world class”. Whether someone is a club legend or a legendary football player can be a huge debate amongst fans of the sport. The debate and the point of view, the grey areas, are part of what makes football the most beloved and followed sport in the world. Who is the greatest of all time? A club legend? Overrated or underrated? Loved or hated? These are topics often debated and will continue to be until humanity ceases to exist. Each of which rarely provide a unanimous answer.
However, our subject of this article proves to be a very rare case. Almost universally around world; Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore is considered to be a legend, world class, one of the greatest centre backs of all time and a gentleman. Bobby Moore is the greatest of all time to pull on the claret and blue jersey of West Ham United.
Born midway through the second world war, on the 12th April 1941, Bobby Moore first joined the Hammers youth academy in 1956.
Making his first team debut against Manchester United in 1958, Moore dislodged mentor Malcom Allison from his starting place in the squad and claimed the number 6 jersey for his own which would be retired by West Ham United in honour of Bobbys memory in 2008.
Moore’s show of impressive form and ability for his club side between 1958-1960 saw him earn a call up to the England Under 23 Squad in 1960 before making his first senior cap for his country in 1962.
One of Moore’s most impressive abilities as a player had to be the way he could read the game. Bobby could see an event and how the play was going to unfold long before that his teammates or opposition were aware, enabling him to intercept, command the play and take up the best position possible in order to defend an oncoming attack.
More often than not, both in Bobby’s time and today’s modern, evolved game, a defender is most commonly beaten by the opposition attacker due to either being defensively out of position and/or unable to realise a dangerous situation until it is too late, thus allowing the sharp and hungry striker to poach a goal for the opposing side.
In a day and age where it was considered the norm for professionals to kick lumps out of the opposition, regardless of their talent, before lumping the ball long up the pitch, Bobby Moore proved to be ahead of his time.
After reading the play like an open book and emerging with the ball following a perfectly timed challenge, Moore would then stride into midfield and release the ball to a fellow teammate instead of merely striking it long in hope the hope hitting his forward man.
This style of play helped pave the way for the birth of the term the “West Ham Way”, a strange and enigmatic term in all honesty considering the lack of overall titles won by the club. Causing many a controversy, the phrase had been famously questioned by one of the greatest managers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson in his most recent autobiography.
However, despite it’s true meaning, the pass and move, play on the floor type philosophy, ‘The West Ham Way’, introduced through Moore and co became ingrained within the history and foundation of West Ham United Football Club.
As a result, any manager or team that has tried to play a more conservative brand of football has been met with vast wrath and fury from the claret and blue army, as recent managers such as Sam Allardayce and David Moyes discovered to their dismay, for good or ill in the end.
1963 saw the official appointment of Alf Ramsey as manager of the England National Team. The first steps on the path to victory and legend had been taken. Upon his appointment as manager, the future knight of the realm demanded complete control over squad selection and decisions which until then had, rather incredibly, been decided by a committee. Keen to make his prediction that hosts England would win the World Cup in 1966, one of Ramsey’s first decisions following this new found power was to make the then 22 year old, Barking boy, Bobby Moore, Engalnd’s youngest ever captain.
Soon after being made captain of the national team, Bobby entered the most glittering phase of his career. In 1964 Moore captained West Ham United to their first ever piece of silverware in a 3-2 triumph at Wembley against Preston North End in the FA Cup final in front of 100,00 spectators.
A year later, Moore and West Ham United would find themselves back at Wembley once again in the final of the Cup Winners Cup. Facing German opposition in 1860 Munich, the Hammers saw out a 2-0 victory, winning their second piece of major silverware.
1966 saw Moore return to Wembley in yet another final, marking an incredible treble. This time however, he strode out onto the pitch as captain of the national team, donning the bright red of England’s away kit rather than West Ham’s claret and blue. Having battled past the likes of the great Eusebio’s Portugal and Argentina in the knockout stages, England found themselves in the final against the old enemy – West Germany.
Three years after his bold prediction, Alf Ramsey’s England side were only a game away from making his World Cup dream a reality. Munich Air Disaster survivor and member of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity, the legendary Bobby Charlton had been the player of the tournament for England, unplayable in a team filled with talent.
The hero of Old Trafford had been a huge driving force in their route to the final. Likewise, Charlton’s opposite number, the equally legendary Franz Beckenbaur had been just as cruical in Germany’s World Cup campaign. Both managers realised the huge threat of their opponents talisman, and as a result, each coach instructed their most influential player to man mark the other. The unstoppable force clashed with the immovable object in the World Cup final of 1966 and thus both ended up completely man marked out of the game.
As the two titans battled, this allowed West Ham United’s own holy trinity of Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore to come forth and shine in what was to become Engalnd’s finest hour in football history. After going a goal down in the opening 12 minutes, the hosts responded brilliantly in the 18th from a free kick floated by Moore and headed in from Hurst. In the 78th minute, England took the lead at Wembley, the second goal scored by Peters had won it for England. Until the 89th minute came and Germany’s Weber delayed England’s celebrations by making it 2-2 and forcing the game to extra time.
Despondent, Engalnd’s spirits were rejuvenated through Ramsey’s infamous war cry that they had won it once, they could win it again and the hosts rose once more, roared on the by the Wembley crowd. Hurst struck for a second time, aided by the crossbar and a linesman that deemed the ball had crossed the line in what can be considered one of the most controversial goals of all time.
Despite having no technology, no clarity at all, the goal stood. That was all that mattered to an entire island nation. In the dying seconds the game, fans rushed onto the pitch in celebration… They thought it was all over. Geoff Hurst made damn well sure it was.
After another brilliant ping from Captain Moore to find his fellow Hammer in space, the future knight ran with all his might before thundering the ball into the German net for a third time, thus Sir Geoff Hurst had secured his legacy as the only man to ever score a hatrick in a World Cup Final.
Prior to lifting the cup, typically, Moore remained a gentleman, the most composed man in the stadium. He made sure he wiped his hand before shaking the then young Queen Elizabeth’s royal wrist during the early period of a reign that would last well over 65 years.
Following his domestic and international success from 1964-1966, Moore continued his West Ham United and England career for many years. Sadly he would win no more silverware with either, placing third in the first ever Euros with England – only 4 teams had competed in the tournament.
In 1970, England failed to retain their trophy in Mexico, falling to the West Germans revenge in a 3-2 quarter final defeat after star goalkeeper Gordon Banks missed the game through injury and the ageing Charlton had been substituted whilst the Three Lions had been leading 2-0.
Moore, however will be remembered for that incredible tackle on Jairzinho against Brazil in 1970, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest tackles of all time.
That year Bobby would also come second in the Ballon d’Or (it’s equivalent of the time). A truly remarkable feat when you consider that 1970 saw the birth of one of the greatest teams, World Cup winners Brazil.
Moore would finish his England career with 108 caps and his time at West Ham with 647 appearances, a then record. He had also won West Ham’s Hammer of the Year four times a huge achievement at the East London club, matched by very few.
In 1974 Moore’s time at West Ham United came to and end as he transferred to West London rivals Fulham. Bobby would face his former club in the 1975 FA Cup final and this time at Wembley he found himself on the losing side as West Ham United claimed a second FA Cup title in a 2-0 victory.
Moore played his final professional game in England in 1977 before opting to play abroad until 1983.
Bobby Moore sadly passed away from bowel cancer in 1993, causing both a club and a nation to weep. West Ham’s greatest of all time was mourned by fans and ex-player a like. Not only a legendary player, but a legendary human being as well. A gentleman most of all.
Bobby Moore’s memory may be at rest, but his legacy never will be. The Bobby Moore Fund has raised over a million pounds each year in aid of cancer research since his death, and long may it continue.