More than a quarter of a century after his untimely death at the age of 51, Bobby Moore is still rightfully remembered as ‘football’s favourite son’ by those lucky enough to have seen him play in the flesh, or even luckier still to have met him in person.
Known as the captain of the only England team to win the World Cup, Bobby Moore holds an eternal place in not only the English Football Hall of Fame but in halls of reverence around the globe.
A playing career spent mostly at his beloved West Ham spanned more than two decades and resulted in not only the success of winning the World Cup, but also 106 England caps, and an FA Cup victory and subsequent European Cup Winners Cup triumph with West Ham.
For all of the wonderful memory of Moore’s skill and achievements on the field, however, it is nothing less than a tragedy that in the present day he is remembered almost on an equal scale for the way he was seemingly abandoned by the footballing fraternity upon his retirement from playing.
When Moore retired from playing he was widely tipped for a successful career in management. He had obviously been a great player, but more than that it seemed nobody had a bad word to say about him and he was highly regarded by teammates and opponents alike.
These glowing testimonials notwithstanding, other than a spell in Hong Kong and two fairly short and undistinguished spells in management at non-league Oxford City and then fourth-tier Southend United, Moore never was afforded the chance to transfer his knowledge and experience from the dug-out.
Forced to seek employment away from the cutting edge of coaching and management, Moore accepted what work he could in the media.
Even this type of work, though, seemed to come his way only grudgingly. Whilst playing contemporaries such as Jimmy Greaves and Bob Wilson, for example, carved out long and presumably lucrative careers in mainstream television, Bobby Moore was left having to make do with whatever crumbs were available.
Indeed, towards the end of his life, he was employed by Capital Radio as a co-commentator as well as the (very) down-market Sunday Sport for whom he wrote articles on football-related matters.
By the time of his death from bowel and liver cancer in February 1993, the captain of England’s World Cup winning side was pretty close to being persona non-grata within certain footballing circles. He was not welcome at Upton Park, for instance, where together he and West Ham had enjoyed so much success over the years, and nor did the FA seem to be in any hurry to utilize either his footballing knowledge or ambassadorial skills.
All of this was a very sad ending for the man who was born in Barking in 1941 and joined West Ham direct from school, making his debut as a replacement for Malcolm Allison in 1958.
Awarded his England debut at the age of 21 just before the 1962 World Cup in Chile, Moore stayed in the team throughout England’s participation in the competition and indeed for the next eleven seasons.
A polished centre-back who played with both poise and grace, Moore seemed to exude class both on and off the pitch. On the field, nothing seemed to ruffle the blond-haired Moore, and his performances were usually as impeccable as his appearance. By the time of his twelfth cap for England, he had been installed as captain, an honour he was to experience a further eighty-nine times.
The years 1964, 1965 and 1966 saw Moore lift three different trophies at Wembley after successful cup finals in differing tournaments. First West Ham beat Preston North End in the 1964 FA Cup Final, then Munich 1960 were beaten a year later in the European Cup Winners Cup Final at the same venue, before England’s greatest moment the following year capped off a unique hat-trick.
Another World Cup followed in 1970 in Mexico where England failed to retain the Jules Rimet trophy, crashing out in the quarter-final 3-2 to West Germany after extra time. Following this disappointment, Moore was to retain his place in the England team for a further three years before being dropped in favour of Norman Hunter.
Bobby Moore’s West Ham career continued until March 1974, when he was transferred to London neighbours, Fulham for £25,000. At Craven Cottage, Moore enjoyed an Indian Summer playing alongside luminaries such as Alan Mullery and later Rodney Marsh and George Best. The FA Cup Final was reached in 1975 where Fulham met Moore’s old club, West Ham.
Unfortunately for the now-ageing and slightly portly Moore, there was to be no fairytale ending, and his old club ran out 2-0 winners.
Moore finally retired from playing in English football at the end of the 1976-77 season, before playing in the North American Soccer League for San Antonio Thunder and Seattle Sounders. A very short spell playing in Denmark for Herning Fremad marked the end of his playing career.
So, why was Bobby Moore all but shunned by large swathes of English football for so long after his playing career wound down? There has never been a definitive or satisfactory answer but it could be said that the very bodies most conspicuous in the shoddy treatment of Moore during his lifetime were the ones who moved fastest upon his death to attempt to atone for such: namely, West Ham and the FA.
In the late 1970s, after he had retired from playing, Moore would sometimes find himself at a loose end on a Saturday afternoon and so would pop down to Upton Park to watch West Ham play. West Ham were by then plying their trade in the Second Division and normally played at home to gates of around 20,000 on a good day.
Moore, unwilling to make a fuss of returning to the ground he had graced for a decade and a half by requesting tickets to be West Ham’s guest for the day, would normally turn up a few minutes after kick-off and knock on the gates of one of the turnstiles to be let in. He would then quietly and unobtrusively sit in the sparsely populated main stand with a cap on and his collar pulled up, trying to remain anonymous.
However, it seems that his attempts at going under the radar were not always successful and his presence at some games was noticed by the West Ham powers-that-be. One day Moore was approached by a steward who informed him that he was very sorry but unless he could produce a ticket then he, the steward, would have to escort him out of the stadium. This is what duly happened and Bobby Moore never returned to Upton Park as a spectator for the rest of his life.
Why should West Ham have treated the most iconic and famous player in their history in this manner?
Well, for all the high esteem he was held in by Hammers’ fans, and indeed fans throughout the country, by all accounts he was not popular with the West Ham hierarchy. There were many accounts of fall-outs with manager Ron Greenwood during their time working together and this may well have contributed to the perceived freeze-out at Upton Park.
That Greenwood famously became England manager upon leaving West Ham could also account for the FA’s apparent similar coolness towards Moore.
Although Moore played the vast majority of his career at West Ham, it was not always a case of plain sailing and happiness. In 1966 prior to the World Cup, he had made up his mind that notwithstanding West Ham’s recent cup successes, he wished to seek a transfer.
Tottenham Hotspur were very keen to sign him and as he was at the end of his contract he informed Greenwood and the West Ham directors that he would be starting the 1966-67 season with the White Hart Lane club and so West Ham should enter into negotiations now in order to secure the highest possible transfer fee.
Greenwood and the West Ham board refused to grant Moore his transfer, and what was more they informed him that if he did not sign a new contract with them immediately then he would technically be an unregistered player and so would be ineligible to play for England in the forthcoming tournament.
Not slightly amused, Moore was over a barrel and he knew it. He signed on again for West Ham but never forgot what happened and always blamed Greenwood.
Their relationship was to deteriorate even further five years later when Greenwood attempted to have Bobby Moore and two other players dismissed from the club for gross misconduct.
In January 1971, West Ham were due to play Blackpool away in the third round of the FA Cup. The weather at the time was atrocious and it was widely thought that the game would be called off, but in the absence of confirmation of same the Hammers still travelled north. Upon checking into their hotel, the players had dinner and were then given permission by Greenwood and his staff to leave the hotel for a walk or to amuse themselves at the cinema on the condition that they were back in by 9 pm.
Seeing as the weather was so cold that long-ago January day, most of the West Ham squad did not bother leaving the comfort of the hotel and so settled for an early night.
Four West Ham players – Moore, Clyde Best, Jimmy Greaves and Brian Dear -decided to do otherwise. These players decided to visit a Blackpool nightclub owned by ex-boxer Brian London and by all accounts enjoyed a good night out, arriving back at the Imperial Hotel at 1:45 am.
Unfortunately for them, the weather cleared up sufficiently for the match at Bloomfield Road to go ahead some thirteen hours or so later, and on a muddy ice-patch of a pitch the home side ran out 4-0 winners.
When Greenwood heard about the events of the night before the match he was apoplectic with anger. He went to the board and strongly argued that Dear, Moore and Greaves all be sacked immediately, with the tee-total Clyde Best being the only one reprieved. The board, perhaps sensibly, deemed this to be an over-reaction and instead all four men were fined and suspended by the club.
Both Greenwood and Moore were said to have been devastated by the event and its fall-out. Greenwood felt badly let down by Moore as his captain and reasoned that his behaviour was unbecoming of someone of his standing.
Moore, for his part, felt stunned by what he saw was as a crass over-reaction by Greenwood, and was of the opinion that he and the other members of ‘The Blackpool Four’ were thrown to the wolves to be devoured by the media when West Ham, and Greenwood, in particular, should have protected them.
The third and final major falling-out occurred in 1974 when Moore finally left the club to go to Fulham. Unable to claim a regular in place in the team after Christmas, Bobby Moore’s final game for West Ham was an FA Cup fourth-round replay against non-league Hereford United.
When it became apparent that Moore no longer figured in the first team reckoning at Upton Park, it was agreed that he was free to fix himself up with another club. This he did so in the form of Fulham.
After he had negotiated his contract with the Craven Cottage side, he was informed that contrary to what he may have previously believed, he would not be leaving West Ham on a free transfer.
Despite having had fifteen years and more than five hundred games out of Bobby Moore, West ham demanded a transfer fee of £25,000. This meant that under the rules in place at the time instead of being able to negotiate his own signing-on fee, Moore was only eligible for a 5% cut of the transfer fee, just £1,250.
It was a sad and shoddy end to Moore’s involvement with his spiritual home.
As stated, the decade and a half between Moore ending his playing career and his tragic death was sometimes a struggle for him both personally and professionally, and yet he kept a dignity throughout. For Bobby Moore, there was no running to the papers to cash-in and to sell his story; no public outbursts; no dramas – just a quiet determination to do the best he could for as long as he could.
It was this dignity and bravery that saw him fight to the very end until cancer tragically took his life away on 24 February 1993.
Postscript: Upon his death, West Ham renamed the South Bank at Upton Park the Bobby Moore stand and in 2008 retired Moore’s iconic number 6 jersey. The FA commissioned a statue of Bobby Moore outside the New Wembley upon its opening in 2007.