Great captain and outstanding defender

Bobby Moore was capped for England 108 times and unlike those for instance of David Beckham, who was capped so often by Fabio Capello for mere fleeting substitutions, those caps were all for 90 minutes’ play with one supreme exception. That was the World Cup final of 1966, when he skippered England to victory over West Germany in 120 minutes, including half an hour of extra-time. By Brian Glanville.

Bobby Moore. A memory. The scene, the motel in Leon, Mexico, the evening before England were due to play West Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals. I was at a bar — not drinking at that time — next to the captain of England, Bobby Moore, who only days earlier had arrived from house detention in Bogota, Colombia, where he had been falsely accused of stealing a bracelet from a jewellery shop in the Tequendama Hotel, where the England team was staying. He had arrived in Guadalajara, where England were established for the Mexican tournament, quite unperturbed, as if nothing untoward had happened. The essence of self possession or if you prefer that maddeningly overused word, cool.

With a match of such huge importance in prospect, what at that moment was concerning and preoccupying Bobby Moore? Why, the fact that two of his London friends, both businessmen, I myself knew well, Phil Issacs and Morris Keston (Tottenham’s supreme hanger on), were without hotel rooms for the coming match. So, Bobby was constantly and urgently on the phone to try to help them.

This little vignette seems to me to tell so much about him. He was capped for England 108 times and unlike those for instance of David Beckham, who was capped so often by Fabio Capello for mere fleeting substitutions, those caps were all for 90 minutes’ play with one supreme exception. That was the World Cup final of 1966, when he skippered England to victory over West Germany in 120 minutes, including half an hour of extra-time. He was very deservedly voted Best Player of the World Cup and there were those, myself amongst them, who believed that despite his potentially traumatising and demoralising experience when arrested in Bogota, he was even better in Mexico in 1970.

Matt Dickinson’s new biography, ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’ quotes me as telling him, “ Bobby Moore? I knew him for nearly forty years, but I’m not sure I really knew him at all.” This was never so painfully clear to me when, waiting for Bobby to arrive from Bogota to Guadalajara, I was asked by my newspaper, The Sunday Times, to write a profile of Moore: and suddenly embarrassingly realised that I didn’t know where to begin. In the event, the piece was written thanks to the huge help I got from Geoff Hurst, Bobby’s companion at West Ham United, the scorer of a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final.

Among journalists covering the England tours, Bobby was renowned for answering a question with another question. As England captain, he led essentially by example, rather than by exhorting and advice. With West Ham, he was renowned for not joining in the post goal celebrations, even when he was the scorer himself.

And essentially, he, like Kevin Keegan in his very different way, was in essence a self made player; sheer determination, will power and intelligence compensating for a basic lack of natural talent. He wasn’t fast: but he read the play in a flash. Several of his England colleagues are quoted in this book as saying he was a poor header of the ball. Thus, though in his early days at West Ham, the salient club of his native East End of London, he played at centre half, he was never happy there.

Only when he was switched by the club’s innovative manager Ron Greenwood to what one might call a second stopper position did his ability finally emerge.

His initial mentor was the flamboyant figure Malcolm Allison, a promising centre back at West Ham till stuck down by tuberculosis, later to become an outstanding coach, above all at Manchester City where he revitalised the team, yet a man who, in the disillusioned early years after his forced retirement, was deeply involved in betting scandals. Not least, when West Ham lost at home 5-3 to Newcastle United, in circumstances so suspicious that the bookmakers refused to pay out on bets. The West Ham goalkeeper that day, Noel Dwyer, was later to follow Allison in his early managerial career from club to club.

But Allison, beyond doubt, was a seminal influence on Moore as this supreme well researched and readable book displays.

Brian Clough, the dynamic manager of Derby County and Nottingham Forest, twice consecutive winners of the European Cup once said of Allison “The Errol Flynn of football, who was too handsome for his own good.”

Curiously enough, as a schoolboy, Moore had excelled less as a footballer than as a cricketer. Of himself, he once modestly opined: “I wasn’t very good at heading and I wasn’t very good at tackling. I can’t actually remember what I was supposed to be good at.” But Allison, charismatic captain at that time, could see something in Moore that others had missed. “You’ll be better than all of them,” he told the teenaged Moore, seeing to it that the club took Moore on when he left school. “The single most valuable thing I was ever taught,” said Moore later, “if I get the ball, who will I give it to?”

So, you can say that Moore’s coruscating career as a player was in essence a triumph of mind over matter. I covered all three of his World Cups, in Chile, 1962, at home in 1966 and in Mexico in 1970, seeing him emerge from a largely defensive wing half in to the towering, influential figure he had become by 1966. Yet you might call his sheer inwardness, his deep self containment, though such qualities made him the exceptional footballer he was, would always be a barrier to his success as a manager and so it proved. The fact that he was always a substantial drinker was curiously irrelevant. If he was well known in the game for his drinking he was also famous for his ability even after the heaviest of nights to go out on the training field as though quite unaffected.

Alf Ramsey, who guided England to that 1966 World Cup, had his ups and downs with Moore, not least when he and others left their London hotel to go out drinking in 1964 on the eve of an England tour. There’d be conflict in New York when Moore protested at the intensity of England’s training. And I remember Alf smiling when he once told me, having briefly dropped Moore for Norman Hunter, “Pushed Bobby Moore.”

On retiring, he was bitterly upset not to be picked by owner Elton John as new manager of Watford — Dickinson disclosed Elton was dissuaded by Watford directors. But Bobby’s subsequent managerial career, notably at little Southend United, was negligible. Never the great communicator. His business enterprises after retiring as a player were a disaster. Unreliable partners, instances of arson when his properties burned down. Shockingly, it took the medical profession so long to diagnose his cancer that it inevitably killed him in the end. But the huge statue of him, which stands outside Wembley Stadium, pays proper tribute to a great captain and outstanding defender.