There are a few perks of being a football writer and pretty close to the top, if not at the top of the list is meeting football greats. Even better when they turn out to be the decent bloke they appear to be when they are on television, radio or in the public domain. I have had the great privilege of meeting and interviewing all those players who have become soccer knights for their services to the game, but it’s a bit more special when one of them is still the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final, Sir Geoff Hurst.
Apart from being a good bloke it was an experience to talk over some of the greatest moments in football history and get to the bottom of truth or legend with the man at the heart of England’s World Cup win in 1966.
Skipping straight through to the final itself, which one tends to do when you are trying to précis down to the salient points of that triumph; The sublime header that cancelled out Helmut Haller’s opener, that goal and the part the crossbar played in England going 3-2 up, and the fourth goal and historic completion of the only World Cup Final hat-trick in history. Nearly 50 years on, Geoff Hurst remembers everything in minute detail.
So what about what, in my humble opinion, is one of the two best headers ever seen in an England game, and both of them scored by Geoff and both in that 1966 World Cup Finals tournament?
“We did work a lot on that free-kick at West Ham and, like the goal against Argentina in the quarter-final, the header against West Germany was as a result of many hours of practise at West Ham with Bobby Moore delivering the perfect ball.”
Now then, what about the controversial third goal that saw England go 3-2 up, in extra-time? When Alan Ball cut the ball back for Geoff to thump, it crashed against the underside of the bar and bounced down- goal or not? Geoff had, and still has, no doubts it was a goal and it says so in the record books. Geoff adds;
“I always believed it was in because Roger Hunt was the next man running in. He was a great striker and instinctively in sport if you are not sure the ball is in, as a striker you follow up and put it in unless it is already in. Roger said it was in. The linesman gave it and it stood.”
Anyone who was at that 1966 Final, watched it on television or saw it in that wonderful film of the 1966 World Cup, ‘Goal’, will remember the dying moments when England were hanging on, 3-2 up. The ball was delivered up field by Bobby Moore, after he had chested it down in the middle of a congested England penalty area as West Germany pressed for an equaliser. Geoff Hurst latched onto it and takes up the story of what most people saw as a cracking, well placed shot that completed the perfect hat trick; left foot, right foot and head. Not a bit of it;
“I decided I was going to waste some time so I was going to put my foot through the ball and put it so far beyond the sand track running around the pitch that by the time the ball boy retrieved it the game would be over. So it was not placed and if you watch film of that moment just as I am about to strike the ball it hit a divot and sat up a little higher than I judged so I caught it with the boney instep instead of the toes – so the full meat of the foot sent the ball zipping into the back of the net.”
The calm and modest matter of fact way Sir Geoff Hurst recalls those historic moments in football history make this particular football writer hope no one ever gets another World Cup Final hat-trick.