The real Bobby Moore

THAT celebrated cricket commentator, the late John Arlott, once dismissively referred to footballers' autobiographies as "ghosted fanfare." Who knows what he would have made of a head footballer's life by his widow, but such is what we have now in the shape of Bobby Moore by the Person Who Knew Him Best. Alias first wife, Tina Moore.

In terms of pure football, there is much that is still interesting to be said about the tall, blond East Londoner who captained England to success in the 1966 World Cup, when he was voted best player of the tournament, playing just as well if not better four years later in Mexico. This despite the fact that he was arrested under a false charge of stealing a bracelet from the hotel in Bogota, Colombia, where the England party stayed in preparation for the ensuing World Cup in Mexico. I was on the same plane which, after a couple of games in Quito, Ecuador, landed in Bogota where police to our amazement came on board, arrested Bobby and took him off. He was supposed to have taken the bracelet from a jewellery shop called Fuego Verde, Green Fire, in the Tequendama Hotel. After a few days under house arrest he was released, to fly to Guadalajara where the squad was preparing for the first qualifying pool of the competition. He seemed astonishingly untouched, unmoved, by the whole experience, as cool and composed as ever. He went on to play superbly for his team which would surely at least have reached the semifinal had not its splendid goalkeeper Gordon Banks mysteriously been struck down by food poisoning on the eve of the quarterfinal game against West Germany in Leon. I was there too, and not long ago talked to Gordon about the puzzle of it all. Why, he still logically wonders, was he the only England player to be so afflicted when they had all eaten and drunk exactly the same at the previous night's dinner?

I have another memory of that occasion, and again it showed Bobby Moore at his most insouciant. I was sitting with him at the bar of the England team's motel, where all that preoccupied him was the quest for a hotel room for a couple of wealthy friends who were due in from London.

It was this remarkable, cocooned quality which made him such an extraordinary footballer, though Tina Moore seems to see little of this. Any more than she perceives that it was precisely this closed, detached quality which, when he stopped playing, would prevent him making a career as a manager. She tells us how bitterly distressed he was, after believing he had shaken hands with Elton John, then the club's patron, on becoming the new manager of Watford when, abroad, he learned only through the papers that the job had gone to Graham Taylor: once an anonymous, journeyman footballer, lately manager of modest Lincoln City.

The irony of it all was that Elton had made the right choice, though it was insensitive to keep Bobby hanging on so long by a string without even ultimately telling him he was out of the money.

By virtue, if that be the word, of crudely effective long ball tactics, which I and other writers deplored, tactics conceived way back in the 1950s by an air force officer called Charles Reep, Taylor brought Watford all the way up from the 4th to 2nd place in the top division, and even reached an FA Cup Final.

Nor does Tina allude to the fact that Bobby's illustrious career was essentially a triumph of mind over matter. He was never a naturally gifted footballer, but like Kevin Keegan, by sheer will power and application, turned himself into a star. Initially a centre half, tall, athletic and blond, with West Ham United, he was noted at first by his colleagues only for his precociously cool temperament, his absolute calm under pressure. It was when he turned into a left sided, secondary, central defender that his career took off. It no longer mattered that he was not a good header of the ball and that he had limited pace. What mattered was the quickness of his football mind, his remarkable anticipation.

Doomed, after his divorce from Tina, whom he first met when he was a shy 17 and she 15, he suffered at the age of 23, she tells us, from testicular cancer. This came as a surprise when she initially revealed it after his death, since it had never been suspected at the time, though it was known that he had been kicked in the groin and had lost a testicle. He would, as we all too sadly know, die in his early 50s from cancer, which ravaged his body; but it was not testicular.

Bobby's unusual self-discipline made him famous for being able to go out drinking into the night, yet turn up the following morning for training with West Ham, seemingly unaffected. He would in time become Alf Ramsey's right-hand man in the England team, which won the 1966 World Cup, but there were conflicts on the way. Not least when in the summer of 1964 the squad was due to fly off on an extended tour. Bobby and other members of the team broke curfew. When they returned to their London hotel, it was to find their passports and packed cases on their beds. In New York, in the tour, Bobby actually led a protest against Ramsey's training schedule. Even after his World Cup prowess, Ramsey once dropped him to choose Leeds' Norman Hunter. "Pushed Bobby Moore!" Alf once said to me, smilingly.

The monumental injustice of it all was that he should die relatively poor, where today, he would be a multi millionaire. On retirement he was involved in a plethora of unsuccessful ventures, even with a nightclub, which was burned down. Hunter Davies, in his Spurs book, The Glory Game, wrote that at a charity dinner, everyone seemed to be a business partner of Bobby Moore. To little effect.