‘Sir Alf rang Ron Greenwood, he said, “Ron I need them all!” Ron said “Don’t be greedy, I’ll only give you three…Moore, Hurst and Peters…get down to Wembley” Well Martin Peters scored a goal and Geoffrey Hurst scored 3, Bobby was the captain when we beat West Germany. Bobby was the general; the leader of the team, when West Ham won the World Cup and England reigned supreme.’
For as long as I can remember I have been in love with the idea of West Ham winning the World Cup in 1966- it was the final and often winning point in a playground argument with my school friends. In recent years however, my views on the favorite boast of West Ham fans have come under more intense scrutiny; were Moore, Peters and Hurst really the most influential and contributing factors to winning the cup and do their performances and contributions when looked at in depth really allow West Ham to claim to have won the World Cup? In order to sort this out, I will address each of the games that were played at the 1966 World Cup and look at the contributions each player had to the games.
Game 1: England vs. Uruguay 11 th July 1966
England started the World Cup as hosts with a drab 0-0 draw against Uruguay. Deploying a 4-3-3 formation, only Moore was present for the West Ham boys, whilst Hurst was on the bench in favour of Jimmy Greaves and Martin Peters not appearing either. They faced an Uruguay who lined up in a 1-4-3-2 formation that set themselves up to defend with 5 men behind the ball and press forward on the counter in the hope of snatching a goal. Only one real highlight that included West Ham players was seen, when Moore intercepted a dangerous pass whilst tussling with two Uruguay players. All in all it appears to have been a dull match with not much danger of a goal from the England front line. So far Moore put in a standard defensive performance and if anything the lack of Hurst and Peters was a reason England didn’t win their first game at the World Cup.
In response to this, Ramsay did what any of our own FM managers would have done; try out a new formation. Having been a defender himself and being part of the side that suffered the embarrassing defeat to the USA in the 1950 World Cup, he chose to change up the midfield. Forgetting conventional wingers he instead went for box to box midfielder types, players who could pick passes, could make probing runs but also had the engine to get back and defend. England became the so called “Wingless Wonders” and the best man for that was Martin Peters.
Game 2: England vs. Mexico 16 th July 1966
The second game against Mexico saw England sitting on one point along with the other three in their group with it all to play for. It saw the appearance of Moore and Peters with Hurst still left on the bench, and Ramsay named his squad with the new 4-3-3 formation that changed the jobs of the midfield three and was met with instant success, with goals from Bobby Charlton and Rodger Hunt enough to beat Mexico. Moore had another standard game; highlights include him just putting the ball over from a towering header whilst Peters headed across goal to provide an assist which turned out to be offside. Peters made England look far more attacking than they did in the Uruguay game, cutting in from the left and then shooting wide as well as heading wide from a cross. Overall it was clear England’s game improved remarkably with the change in midfield tactics and Peters showed this the most, even though he was unlucky not to get a goal. There was certainly hints at things to come for the “West Ham connection” as Moore tackled two opposition players and played a wonderful through ball to the already flying Peters who shot just wide from outside the box.
Overall though, West Ham didn’t really win the game for England here. Whilst the introduction of Peters certainly helped improve England’s overall play, Mexico rarely threatened and England won the game through a Bobby Charlton screamer and a Rodger Hunt goal. Nevertheless the introduction of Peters did improve England’s overall performance and Moore’s continued organization of the back line prevented any hope of an upset.
Game 3: England vs. France 20 th July 1966
The third and final game of the group saw England needing a win or draw to guarantee that they qualified for the knockout group stages. Standing in their way were rivals France, who gave England and Bobby Moore their first real tests in the competition.
France’s gameplay was to work the ball around halfway into the English half and then fire diagonal balls into the penalty area. There was a lack of closing down from England’s midfield which allowed this to be quite successful and these balls were difficult to deal with. France seemed the more threatening during the first half but England’s defence stood firm, which was testament to Moore’s organization of it. Moore was also lively at the other end of the pitch, using his quick thinking to take a speedy free kick and set up a venomous strike that almost went in. He also provided an acutely lobbed ball to Jack Charlton that was headed just over. Peters too was also heavily involved, contributing to another offside goal. He headed the ball across the goal to the far post which may have been going in anyway, but to be certain Greaves bundled it over the line and it was ruled offside. Peters also struck two venomous shots in the match that were palmed away. But England won the game and topped their group with 5 points because of it.
England won this game for two reasons, more clinical finishing than the French (with both goals scored by Hun) and some solid work by the back line. Though Moore and Peters did create several chances to get England on the score sheet it was in England’s defence that West Ham’s captain shone, keeping out the French for 90 minutes. Overall however, West Ham didn’t win this game for England either, the performances of Moore in defence were impressive and whilst they both created and had their share of chances it was the frontline that won England the match that day. Although, the aim of this game was not to lose, so one could put more emphasis on the strong defensive performances rather than England’s finishing
During this match England’s striker Jimmy Greaves suffered a gash on his leg that required stitches and was therefore not fit for the quarterfinal clash against Argentina. Hurst had played poorly in warm up games with Finland and Denmark and was dropped for the group games, but Ramsey had to select him for the game against Argentina. For the first time in this World Cup, the West Ham trio were starting a game together.
Game 4: England vs. Argentina 23 th July 1966
England played rivals Argentina in the Quarter Finals of the world cup with Hurst, Moore and Peters all starting. Argentina’s style at the time was (like their foreign policy) reckless and violent as they had already had one red card in the World Cup. It was much the same against England, they flew into challenges and attempted to shake England up with heavy tackles. Argentina’s style did backfire on them when Argentinian midfielder Rattin was sent off for foul language. Rattin said the referee did not speak Spanish (draw your own conclusions) and had to be escorted out by police.
The game was a frustrating one, England had most of the chances as Argentina were inviting pressure. Moore once again provided a link between defence and attack by dispossessing the Argentinians in his own half and then providing link up play through long balls. Moore played several balls forward to Hurst who was a nuisance right from the off with a shot that forced the goalkeeper to palm it away. The West Ham connection was really showing in this game with one player in each area of the pitch, Moore continued intercepting balls and distributing them to the midfield, one such ball found Peters who shot just wide from range. Hurst later forced a world class save from the Argentina keeper Roma from a late charge into the box. The game seemed set to be a frustrating draw after 80 minutes until the West Ham connection created magic. Peters collected the ball on the left and floated an exquisite ball into the box, which appeared to be going straight to the Argentina defence, when Hurst charged across out of nowhere and flicks it behind him into the goal. There were only 10 minutes left and Argentina didn’t recover.
Overall the West Ham trio did make the difference to win the game, England’s primary goal scorer Bobby Charlton wasn’t finding the target, Greaves was out and England were having a frustrating game as they couldn’t hit the target. Hurst led the attack with great link up play with Peters that provided England with a crucial goal that stopped the tie going to extra time and England becoming fatigued and losing it. Hurst and Peters did make a difference when linking up together, with Hurst making a nuisance of himself from the very beginning and Bobby Moore provided play going out of defence on the counter attack. A semi-final with Portugal beckoned.
Game 5: England vs. Portugal 26 th July 1966
England now had a real chance of reaching the final on their own turf and the three West Ham players lined up again for England as Greaves was still out due to injury. They faced a tough challenge in the semi-final against eventual golden boot winner Eusebio, who had already scored 7 goals in the tournament.
The game was tense, England had not conceded in the World Cup finals as of yet and Eusebio was in deadly form. Moore provided some link up play and organized the defence well, including heading clear from a very dangerous cross early on. The Portuguese attempted a lot of shots from range that mainly went wide. The hero of the defence however was Gordon Banks, who pulled off some stunning saves including two in the last few minutes which would have handed Portugal a goal to draw them level. England won 2-1 with both goals coming from Bobby Charlton who was back in form. No West Ham player played a part in the first goal but Hurst did provide the assist for the crucial second goal, which put some distance between the hosts and their opponents. Hurst ran onto a lobbed through ball, outmuscling a Portuguese player and holding it up before laying it back to Charlton who swept it home to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Hurst did make a difference in this match and showed Ramsey again why he should be picked; out of the three West Ham players he made the biggest contribution to the proceedings with some shots on goal and the assist. Moore held the defence together but Banks deserves the most credit in this match. Peters was largely anonymous but England only conceded due to an outrageous handball from Jack Charlton, almost Luis Suarez vs Ghana-esque, it was comical and Eusebio easily put it away.
Overall the Hammers boys didn’t contribute as much as they did to the last games in terms of style, but they did get the job done, with Hurst setting up what proved to be the decisive goal. In the cold light of day it is what really matters. Moore did fine in defence and Peters was not particularly noticeable. Banks and Charlton were the true heroes of this match, but Hurst’s assist was key and booked England’s place in the final against old rivals Germany.
Game 6: England vs. Germany 26 th July 1966
One of my memories is sitting down with my grandfather to watch the final on VHS, I got bored and fast-forwarded to all the goals, but what a match it seemed to be. All the West Ham boys of course lined up, Moore and Peters retained their positions and more importantly Hurst did. Greaves was fit again for the final and there was a media campaign to have him return and drop Hurst. Ramsey decided instead to select the man in form and as we all know, it paid off in the end.
This match heralded the most outstanding performances from the West Ham players yet, though they weren’t completely perfect. Germany took the lead after a misguided header from Wilson fell to the German team just outside of the box and the Germans eventually got it in. Moore attempted to close down Haller but failed to do so, he perhaps could have done better and England found themselves 1-0 down. Moore made up for it however by assisting England’s first goal; a free kick was given and Moore replicated a move that he and the West Ham squad had practiced at their training ground, he took a quick free kick and floated it into the box to Hurst. Showing great awareness and vision, Hurst was of course on the same wavelength and rose to head England level.
The second half was a tense affair and England finally got ahead through Martin Peters. Hurst worked hard to get the chance to put a shot away from outside the area, and its deflection fell to Peters in the penalty area and he made no mistake slotting it in to make it 2-1. The hosts were now in front and the Germans threw everything they had at them for the last 15 minutes. They got their breakthrough, with a free kick on the edge of the area taking a deflection and allowing Germany to scramble the ball across the line after the ball was shot across goal. Moore wasn’t to blame for that goal as such, the deflection was unlucky and there was little he could do about it.
The match then went to extra time, England came out the stronger in the first half of and were rewarded when Hurst scored his second. a cross found Hurst who swiveled expertly and scored off the crossbar. Whether it truly crossed the line or not does not matter in this case, Hurst had scored and given England an all important lead. He truly was the best player on the pitch for England and had allowed England to be in a commanding position for the rest of extra time. As Germany got more and more desperate England managed to get their fourth- Moore intercepted the ball and on the counter sent it soaring downfield to an unmarked Hurst who scored with a typical Hurst power strike which left the goalkeeper with no chance. England had won the World Cup.
This match showed the best of West Ham’s players in the England team, Moore commanded the back line and as captain helped them to get a swift reply out of the team after going 1-0 down, as well as come out fighting when Germany scored in the last few minutes of normal time. The true testament to Moore in this match aside from his leadership is the fact that he got two of the assists, both showing his vision and class by finding Hurst for England’s first and last. Peters in this match represented Alf Ramsey’s tactical change to “wingless wonders” and being there to sweep home the ball for England’s third. Lastly Hurst, perhaps the best out of the three West Ham players in the final, scoring the only World Cup Final hattrick ever and winning it for England. His finishing was top notch and I don’t think Greaves would have had anywhere near the same impact. Hurst’s West Ham connection with Moore created two of the goals for England in the final and his finishing prowess got the third.
They think it’s all over…it is now
So, after reviewing each of the games and the impacts that the players had on them, we come to the question, can West Ham say they won they World Cup? In the knockout stages the West Ham players were without a doubt the key figures, with Hurst and Peters combining to beat Argentina after a frustrating game of missed chances from the England team. Hurst setting up Charlton for his second goal that gave the England team some day light between themselves and Portugal. Most importantly of course was the final, where only West Ham players scored for England with Hurst getting a hat-trick and Peters scoring the other. Moore should not be forgotten throughout the knockout stages either, not only keeping Eusebio quiet at Portugal and helping England to their 4 th clean sheet of the competition against Argentina, but also his assists to Hurst and the motivational and organizational powers he possessed.
In the group stages however there is a different story; the opener vs Uruguay was a bore draw that only Moore played in and kept a solid back line, little to comment on here when it comes to the West Ham boys. The game against Mexico was won by Charlton and Hunt goals and there was little else to it, Mexico did not threaten and Moore had a standard game. Peters too did little, although England’s style of play did remarkably improve from the first game due to the introduction of the Wingless Wonders. The game against France too only had an impressive performance from Moore, but the win was more down to England’s strikers being clinical- whilst Peters did test the opposition he didn’t make too much an impact.
Disregarding the group stages, West Ham players certainly did make a huge impact in all the knockout stages, being involved in seven out of the eight goals, three of which were exclusively West Ham goals with both the assister and scorer coming from E13, or four if you count Hurst’s deflected shot in the final that fell to Peters. In conclusion, West Ham’s players gave the biggest contribution in the knockout stages when all three were playing. Whilst Peters and Moore played in two of the group stages, they only had good rear-guard action to show for their efforts and if anything the lack of Hurst and Peters in the first game where the tactics were different and there was nobody clinical on the field meant that they only got a draw. Certainly it can be said that out of all the teams that provided players for England’s squad, West Ham’s players did the most to give England their solitary World Cup. Single-handedly scoring the goals to get them into the semis and to win the competition, there certainly is an argument that West Ham did win the World Cup and the statue dedicated to the three outside of the ground where the final was is deserved. Some people claim that when West Ham do well, England do well too and it can be argued strongly here that three of West Ham’s greatest players really did make the largest contribution to England winning the World Cup.