Scorer at the 1966 World Cup Final
England Caps: 67
Player: 1966 - 1974
World Cup winner Martin Peters was one of three players who came into the England squad very late on in the run-up to the World Cup without a recognised pedigree the others being Alan Ball and Geoff Hurst. A product of the West Ham United academy, like Hurst and Bobby Moore, he had been slowly gaining a first team place at West Ham since his debut in 1962.
Late EntryIt was as late as May 1966 when Sir Alf Ramsey picked him for a pre-tournament friendly against Yugoslavia, and Peters acquitted himself well in a 2-0 win. Ramsey played him again in the next friendly against Finland and he opened his England account, getting the first goal in a 3-0 win.
Wingless WondersAs the tournament began Ramsey was still experimenting, still unsure as to whether to risk playing without wingers as he tried one-winger systems. Martin Peters was not a winger but a left-sided midfielder, capable of attacking and defending, and this was what Ramsey needed. Peters also had exceptional tactical skill, positioning and anticipation, leading to his nickname of ‘The Ghost’ at West Ham, so often arriving in the box where no defender expected him.
Peters was left out of the opening match, a tentative 0-0 draw with Uruguay, but back in for the two other group matches, 2-0 wins against Mexico and France, although Ramsey was still playing with a winger on the right. In the knockout stage though, Ramsey went for broke, and settled on Alan Ball as the right midfielder and Peters on the left.
Settled SideThis was the line up that went all the way to the top. It was Peters cross that supplied the sole goal for Geoff Hurst in the bad-tempered quarter-final against Argentina. A 2-1 win against Portugal was probably the best match of the tournament, with both teams playing outstanding football.
World Cup GloryWest Germany waited in the final and Peters’ goal, to put England 2-1 up, was a well-taken half-volley in the area after a defender skied a shot from Hurst. That goal was all about Peters’ football brain, rather than his ball skills, putting himself in the right place at the right time. It was only his eighth cap.
After the euphoria of the World Cup win it was back to normal for the team, and Peters settled back into life at West Ham and England. He put in his best performance in an England shirt in a 1-1 draw with Scotland at Hampden Park in 1968, scoring the goal with an exquisite curving shot and coming close on three other occasions.
Spurred OnWest Ham were in an unsuccessful period and eventually Peters moved to Spurs, who bid a record £200,000, for him in a swap deal that saw Jimmy Greaves going the other way.
Four months later Peters was off to Mexico with the rest of the 1970 World Cup squad, by now a senior member with 38 caps under his belt. This team was generally held to be better than the 1966 one as players like Peters, Ball, Moore, Banks, Charlton and Hurst were now in their prime and the defence had been revitalised with the likes of Terry Cooper and Brian Labone.
Mexico 1970Peters scored twice in a warm-up friendly against Columbia and was in excellent form throughout the group match stage, although he didn’t score any goals. He did score in the quarter-final against West Germany, putting England 2-0 up. It was a trademark Ghost goal, a cross from the right wing to the far post and the West German full back had no idea Peters was coming in behind him to volley home first time. But poor substitutions, with Peters and Charlton being taken off to save them for the semi-final, allowed West Germany to get back into the game and they ended up 2-3 winners.
Decline and FallAfter that, the national side went into decline. West Germany put them out of the European Championship two years later, then two years after that, with Peters standing in as captain, England failed to beat Poland at Wembley and could not qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Sir Alf Ramsey went soon after, and Peters, at 30, played three more games before Don Revie swept away the remaining 1966 old boys.
Peters played on for Spurs for another year then moved to Norwich where he spent five fruitful years, helping them into the First Division in his first season and winning their Player of the Year award in 1976 and 1977. After an unsuccessful foray into management with Sheffield United he went into insurance but was still in demand on the after-dinner speaking circuit.