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April 9, 2010

Geoff Hurst: Hat-trick hero

By Robin Hackett
(Archive)

Sir Geoff Hurst was an unlikely World Cup legend.

Geoff Hurst
GettyImagesGeoff Hurst, who scored 24 goals in 49 appearances for England, is lending his support to the England 2018 Back the Bid campaign

He had been playing international football for little over five months when he appeared at the 1966 World Cup final. Almost exactly two years earlier, he had been playing cricket for Essex Second XI. It was only a week before the '66 final that he made his competitive debut for his country.

Yet Hurst booked his place in history by scoring three goals as England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley on July 30, 1966. He remains the only man to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final and the commentary that accompanied his final goal - "some people are on the pitch ... they think it's all over ... it is now" - remains the most famous line in English football.

One of the most surprising facts in the Hurst story is that Sir Alf Ramsey selected him ahead of the great Jimmy Greaves. Greaves, who scored 44 goals in 57 appearances for England, had picked up a shin injury in the final group game against France. Hurst was brought in and scored the only goal in the quarter-final victory over Argentina before providing an assist for Bobby Charlton's second in the 2-1 semi-final win against Portugal.

When Greaves returned to fitness, Ramsey ignored media calls to reinstate him and told Hurst the day before the final that he had been selected to partner Roger Hunt.

"Sometimes players emerge as we did through the tournament," Hurst tells Soccernet. "It changed in the last three games from the team that started.

"The team he picked pushed themselves into the side - particularly the wide players, Alan Ball and Martin Peters. My own situation was more fortuitous because of the injury to Jimmy."

Geoff Hurst
GettyImagesGeoff Hurst celebrates the goal that knocked Argentina out of the 1966 World Cup

Hurst believes Ball may have been the man of the match in the final, and there is no doubting the contribution of the likes of Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore, but it was Hurst's goals that really made the difference and Ramsey's decision was vindicated.

The widespread calls for Greaves' return, though, had never been a slight on Hurst. Hurst was a fine striker - strong, versatile and surprisingly quick. In 1964, he had scored in the FA Cup final to help West Ham to victory and, the following year, he was part of the side that defeated 1860 Munich to win the Cup Winners' Cup.

Ahead of the World Cup final, Ramsey had simply called on Hurst to replicate such displays for his country.

"Alf talked very rarely to the team collectively," he says. "It was very much to me that he was reminding you individually of why you were picked and the things that you did well for your club. I think that was the important thing for me and I'm sure he did the same for everyone else.

"One of his secrets for me was picking players from their club to fit into that pattern. People were asked to play the same way as they did for their clubs. How many times [since] have we seen players who are picked for England play in a slightly different position to the one they play for their clubs?"

Club football was not far from all that Hurst knew going into the tournament, but he at least had some knowledge of the World Cup finalists. He made his England debut on February 23, 1966, in a friendly against West Germany at Wembley, which England won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Nobby Stiles. In his next match, a 4-3 win over Scotland, he opened his account.

Yet over the course of his five pre-tournament games, Hurst could not persuade Ramsey to break up his first-choice partnership and, while he had performed well in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, Hurst admits now that he had not expected to make the impact he did in the final.

When England fell behind 12 minutes into the match, his expectations may have sunk further still. Any pessimism was quickly expelled, though: Hurst turned the ball in from a Bobby Moore free-kick only six minutes after Helmut Haller had given the West Germans the lead. England had then seemed on course for a 2-1 victory when Peters fired in on 77 minutes from Hurst's deflected shot, but Wolfgang Weber forced the game into extra-time with a controversial last-gasp equaliser.

Geoff Hurst’s second goal was adjudged to have crossed the line, giving England a vital lead
Allsport / Allsport Hulton/Archive Geoff Hurst’s second goal was adjudged to have crossed the line, giving England a vital lead
Greater controversy was to come, of course, when England regained the lead in the 101st minute. Ball's cross found Hurst, Hurst fired on goal and the ball cannoned down off the underside of the crossbar. The linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, flagged that the ball had crossed the line and England were 3-2 ahead.

Talk of whether it was a legitimate goal continues, but Hurst says it takes nothing away from his memories of the day.

"I really don't care. I really don't care. It's a lot of water under the bridge now. Bakhramov gave it. It counted. [West Germany midfielder] Franz Beckenbauer said we were the best team not only on the day but in the tournament.

"We had a great side and, even if one goal didn't count, we were still the strongest team in extra time. You don't win a World Cup by being lucky and we were the best team."

As the game entered its final moments, Hurst sealed it. He charged forwards and - as commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme began to deliver his famous words and spectators entered the field - he unleashed a shot into the top corner. England had their fourth and made certain the victory.

"It's amazing to me that, 44 years on, people come up to me and say congratulations," he says. "We didn't realise the impact it would have not only on ourselves but also the country. Nobody can compare the memories we share with the fan in the street."

Four years after England's success, West Germany took their revenge. Hurst was unable to replicate his success when the sides met again in the 1970 quarter-finals, failing to score as England exited with a 3-2 defeat after extra-time. Hurst, though, believes England were good enough to have retained the trophy.

Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst
AssociatedGeoff Hurst is hugged by Martin Peters after scoring the winner in England's 1970 opener against Romania

"I think we were, arguably, for four or five years the best team in the world. I think we were looking good in '70. We were arguably the best team around for that period between '65 and '71 or '72."

His international career ended in 1972 with another defeat to West Germany: England lost 3-1 on aggregate in the second qualification round for Euro 1972 and failed to make the tournament.

Yet those defeats have not dimmed the memory of his finest hour. Hurst will always be remembered worldwide as the first - and as yet only - man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. In England, he will always be remembered as the first and as yet only man to fire the country to World Cup success.

Geoff Hurst is supporting the BT Vision England 2018 Back the Bid campaign, aiming to raise nationwide support to bring the FIFA World Cup to England. To pledge your support and officially back the bid, visit www.bt.com/2018 or text your name and "BT Vision" to 62018