In the latest of BackPageFootball’s big interviews, we spoke exclusively to England legend and 1966 World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst about England’s World Cup chances and going on at former club West Ham.
(Words by Neil Sherwin)
It’s rare that you get time to sit down and chat to a World Cup winner, let alone one who scored a hattrick in the final, but BackPageFootball was lucky enough to catch up with the great Sir Geoff Hurst at the unveiling of the Royal Mint World Cup Medal.
The former West Ham star was speaking at the launch of the medal, of which there are 150,000 up for grabs at no cost from the mint’s website.
Hurst spoke highly of England’s chances at this summer’s World cup in South Africa, predicting a spot in the semi finals at the very least given their favourable draw.
“We’re very well prepared this time,” he said.
“I think the new manager Fabio Capello has instilled a lot more discipline and mutual respect from the players to the management and vice versa, and I’m encouraged by that.
“It’s very important that we keep our best players on the field of course, particularly Wayne Rooney, the Gerrard/Lampard combination in midfield, and the Rio Ferdinand and John Terry dual combination as central defenders.”
When asked why England have failed to emulate his side’s achievements in 1966, Hurst pointed to the lack of a spine to match that of Sir Alf Ramsey’s side.
“Our back bone in the team of ’66 is something we haven’t quite emulated with the four players in the back line,” he said.
“Gordon Banks, the best keeper; Bobby Moore at the back….I don’t think we’ve replicated him; Bobby Charlton in midfield with 106 caps and 49 goals, that’s one in two for a midfielder which is just fantastic.
“And up front Jimmy Greaves who, although he didn’t play in the final, was a world class player and one of the best ever England goalscorers.”
Hurst himself also boasts an impressive strike rate at international level having scored 24 goals in 49 England appearances.
He again re-enforced the point about Capello’s excellent management qualities, and believes that the trophy drought could have ended before now had the Italian been in charge.
“I think at the last couple of World Cups we’ve had some good players but I don’t think we have been as organised, prepared or disciplined as a squad,” he said.
“If Fabio Capello had been in charge in the previous two World Cups then we would have gone further.”
Capello names his final 23 man squad in the next ten days, and Hurst sees no reason why a surprise inclusion couldn’t go on to make a big impression at the tournament.
“I was a surprise in ’66, and Martin Peters is a classic example,” he said.
“He scored a goal in the final which could’ve been the winner but he didn’t make his debut until May the fourth in 1966 so there is an opportunity.”
As a member of England’s committee bidding to host the 2018 World Cup, Hurst takes a massive interest in the tournament and believes the usual suspects will be there or there abouts in South Africa.
“You can’t really look away from Brazil,” he said.
“They’ve got a great World Cup pedigree. Spain are a country that has been in tremendous form, and got some tremendous players and strength in depth.
“Italy are never far away, though not quite the side they were but always very succesful in World Cups.
“But we can talk about it until we’re blue in the face. The beauty about football is that it throws up some quirky results and people can win it that you don’t expect to.”
Hurst’s former club West Ham have been making the headlines lately following a recent takeover by David Gold and David Sullivan, as well as the sacking of manager Gianfranco Zola.
“It’s been a very tempestuous club in meltdown for a couple of years,” he said.
“I didn’t think Gianfranco Zola’s appointment was good two years ago. He came from being an assistant manager with the Italian under 23 team, and that jump to managing a Premier League club who are in fnancial distress as well and not very secure with all the changes at top meant it was not a very good appointment.
“He’s not the owners’ pick and they are coming in fresh and changing everything. It’s a club that needs a firm hand now after being poorly run for three or four years.”
It’s certainly an interesting time to be a West Ham supporter, and no one hopes they can relive the glory days more than Hurst.
A big thank you to Chris Nee of TwoFootedTackle.com for arranging the interview.