England Goal Scorer: Geoff Hurst
Word Cup Winning Goal Scorer in 1966
England Caps : 49
Goals : 24
Player : 1966-1972
Geoff Hurst’s achievement at the Word Cup in 1966 is well known and he is responsible for some of the most iconic moments in the history of English international football. What many people don’t realise, however, is that the final was only his eighth international, having only made his debut five months before.
Conversion JobHurst had started as an apprentice at West Ham United and was initially a wing-half (midfielder) who was Bobby Moore’s understudy, but Ron Greenwood thought he’d make a good centre-forward, so coached him through the change. The results were good, with Hurst scoring in the Hammers 1964 FA Cup victory and playing a key part in winning the ensuing European Cup Winners Cup Final the following year (FA Cup winners qualified for this competition, later amalgamated with the UEFA Cup).
Straight into ActionHurst was handed his England debut in February 1966 as Sir Alf Ramsey tried out combinations in the lead-up to the World Cup final tournament, which England were to host. England ran out 1-0 winners in the friendly, and Hurst wasn’t on the score-sheet, but he did score in his next match, a 4-3 defeat of Scotland in the Home Championship.
The first choice forward combination at the time was the electrifying Jimmy Greaves, who scored 44 goals in 57 matches for England, with Roger Hunt, Liverpool’s respected predator, usually playing alongside him. Ramsey tried out all the different pairings of these two and Hurst, with Bobby Charlton ever-present as the attacking midfielder behind the chosen pair, and had finally settled on Greaves and Hunt.
The Road to the FinalThis pairing took England through the group stages, with a goal-less draw against Uruguay and then 2-0 wins against Mexico and France setting up a quarter-final with Argentina. Greaves came out of the French match with a badly gashed shin that needed stitches, and Hurst was drafted in to partner Hunt for the quarter-final.
Hurst settled a bad tempered match with an intelligent run to anticipate the cross of his West Ham team-mate Martin Peters, get in front of his marker and head in the only goal at the near post. With Greaves still injured, the Hurst / Hunt combination continued into the semi-final against Portugal, with Bobby Charlton scoring two memorable goals, the second set up by Hurst’s cut back from the line, to put England into the final.
Greaves Pronounced FitIn the lead up to the final with West Germany, the news leaked from the England camp that Greaves was fit, and the press decided that Ramsey should play him. But Ramsey had two traits that made him the manager he was. Firstly, he was never in the thrall of the press, only talking to them when absolutely necessary, secondly, he would not play players on reputation, but play whoever he thought best fitted in the team at the time.
So Hurst played in the final, a difficult decision but one that had more importance than it would have done these days, because substitutions were not allowed. Hurst repaid Ramsey’s faith, scoring in the first half to equalise West Germany’s opener, with a free header from Moore’s free kick. Martin Peters made it 2-1 with twelve minutes to go, but West Germany managed a last-gasp equaliser to take the match into extra time.
Was it Over the Line?Ten minutes into the first half of extra time, Hurst collected a cross from Alan Ball in the six-yard box, turned and swept it up into the top of the goal, the ball bouncing down off the underside of the post. After lengthy discussions as to whether or not the ball had crossed the line, Hurst’s second goal was awarded.
As the Germans pressed for another equaliser, Hurst’s final act was to latch onto a long, pressure-relieving ball from Bobby Moore, run as far as he could and wallop the ball as hard as he could. As much to his surprise as anybody else’s, the net bulged, and seconds later the match was over. Hurst later admitted that his third goal had been really been an attempt to get the ball as far away as possible, so that the West German keeper would have to waste time retrieving it for the goal kick!
Post-EuphoriaAfter the World Cup, Jimmy Greaves only played a handful of matches for England and Hurst became first choice striker for England. England went on to the European Championship of 1968, which at that time didn’t have a full-blown World Cup-like tournament, but lost 0-1 to Yugoslavia in the semi-final, and Hurst only played in the third place play-off.
In the 1970 World Cup, Hurst played in all the matches except the group stage match except the one against Czechoslovakia, scoring in the match against Romania. The quarter-final was against West Germany, England donning the red shirts of 1966 in the hope that would bring good luck. Unfortunately, England went out, losing 3-2 after being two goals up. Hurst, although he hadn’t scored many goals in the competition, had made many and was playing, if anything, better than in 1966.
The next major competition was the 1972 European Championship, and England went through qualifying to set up a quarter-final with, yes, West Germany again. In those days it was a two-leg tie and the Germans beat England 1-3 at Wembley, with the scoreless draw on the return leg being nowhere near enough to go through. Hurst retired from international football after this disappointment.
Down to EarthOne of the few knighted footballers, Geoff Hurst’s achievements will go down forever in World Cup history. He scored 24 goals in 49 games and was a less flamboyant but more consistent striker than Greaves, which is what worked for Ramsey, knowing that Hurst would not be fazed by the big day.
After all, on the day after his hat-rick made history, when every reporter and photographer wanted a piece of him, they went round to his house and there he was, mowing the lawn.