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Sir Geoff Hurst is an unusual case in world-famous sports people for being best-known for two closely-related facts, his first being that he remains the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final and the second that it was by replacing the first-choice centre forward in the England team of 1966, Jimmy Greaves, that he was able to achieve this.
Born in Ashton-under-Lyme on December 8th 1941 Sir Geoff is associated with West Ham United and Essex, his family moving to Chelmsford when he was six. His father, Charlie, was a professional footballer who played Bristol Rovers, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale.
Sir Geoff joined West Ham as an apprentice, aged fifteen, and made his debut in February 1960 at a time when he was still considering becoming a professional cricketer. This changed in April 1961 when Ron Greenwood was appointed manager of West Ham. Having missed pre-season in 1962-63 owing to cricket commitments with Essex and with no fixed position in the team, Greenwood switched Hurst’s position from left-half to centre forward at the start of 1962-63, resulting in thirteen goals in twenty seven First Division matches. 1963-64 ended with an FA Cup Final win - 3-2 - against Second Division Preston, Hurst scoring West Ham’s second to make it 2-2. The following season, 1964-65, took West Ham to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Wembley, which they won 2-0 against TSV 1860 München, West Ham’s first European trophy.
Sir Geoff’s forty goals in fifty nine matches in season 1965-66, including the World Cup Final of 1966, resulted in no transfer from West Ham, despite interest from Europe’s biggest clubs. Although the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons were relatively disappointing for West Ham, he continued to score regularly, including a hat-trick against Leeds United in 1967, six against Sunderland in 1968, and to ascribe his lack of interest in leaving West Ham to the ‘high job satisfaction’ he enjoyed there. This changed at the beginning of the 1972-73 season, when he was transferred to Stoke City for £80,000 and in 1974-75 his goals took the club to fifth place, four points behind champions Derby County.
A season at West Bromwich Albion - 1975-76 - in the Second Division brought the end to Hurst’s career in England, joining the Seattle Sounders in the NASL in 1976 via a short spell with Cork City.
Sir Geoff’s England career started promisingly, his debut, against West Germany in February 1966, followed by games against Scotland and Yugoslavia, drawing praise from the press, approval from the FA and selection for England’s World Cup squad. He lost his place in the selectors’ orders of priorities after the Finland and Denmark friendlies and Roger Hunt and Jimmy Greaves started in the final game, against Poland, before the 1966 World Cup began, as well as in the three group matches against Uruguay, Mexico and France. Hurst replaced Greaves for the Quarter Final against Argentina, the latter having been injured in the France match.
His headed goal put England into the Semi-Finals, which England won 2-1 against Portugal. Despite the pressure placed on England manager Alf Ramsey to recall the fit-again Jimmy Greaves, Hurst retained his place in the England line-up for the Final against West Germany, which England won 4-2 in Extra Time, thanks to Hurst’s hat-trick, with Martin Peters scoring England’s fourth.
Sir Geoff’s contribution to England’s participation in Euro 1968 in Italy was a goal in the Third Place Play-Off game against the Soviet Union, which England won 2-0.
His hat-trick in the 5-0 win against France in March 1969 added strength to his case to be included in England’s World Cup squad for Mexico in 1970, which began well for him with the winning goal against Romania in England's opening game. England’s tournament ended in the Quarter Finals with the 3-2 Extra-Time defeat to West Germany.
The 3-1 defeat to West Germany in the Quarter Finals of Euro 1972 brought his international career to an end.
Coaching and management followed, at Telford United, Chelsea from the start of the 1979-80 season to April 1981 and with England at Euro 1980 and the 1982 Spain World Cup, both under Ron Greenwood. Between 1982 and 1984 Hurst managed Kuwait AC and returned to England in April 1984.
In conversations in retirement, Sir Geoff, who was knighted in 1998, spoke of the three teams that England played in the Quarter-, Semi- and Final - Argentina, Portugal and West Germany - of the 1966 World Cup as ‘terrific sides’, with Argentina ‘the toughest’, including their performance in the tunnel after the match, of Brazil in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico as ‘the greatest side ever’, that England could and should have beaten them and that Bobby Moore’s and the rest of the England team’s performances in 1970 were better than those of 1966.
Football, 1960 style, according to Sir Geoff: ‘The system we had was pretty simplistic. You kick the ball in the road, the streets, the playground till you were fifteen, you played for your school's a bit, maybe for the county. The people in charge were not coaching, they were probably a PE teacher whose second subject was art. And that system produced some of the greatest players at that- and any other time.’
Tellingly, asked what his favourite toy as a child was, his answer was immediate, a football.