A gentleman that was devoted to his club and country, Bobby Moore’s death over 20 years ago was a profound loss for the footballing world. To mark the unveiling of a blue plaque honouring Bobby Moore today in Barking, we’re exploring his life, legacy and that match from 1966.
Sir Alf Ramsey called him “my captain, my leader, my right-hand man. He was the spirit and the heartbeat of the team. A cool, calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup.”
Pelé described him as “my friend… the greatest defender I ever played against”. Sir Alex Ferguson has echoed these thoughts and said “he was the best defender I have ever seen”. The many accolades describe an individual that was not only talented on the pitch, but a leader and an inspiration off it.
Favourite son of London’s East End
Moore was born during the Blitz. He was very much a product of his time; a child of austerity and wartime Britain. Resolute, determined and hardworking, Moore was a proud East Londoner. It should come as no surprise that the first club Moore played for was West Ham, breaking into the senior squad on September 8 1958 against Manchester United.
A central defender, Moore had an uncanny ability to read the game and anticipate opposition movements. What he lacked in pace he made up for with near-perfect tackles and an instinct for knowing where the ball was at all times.
Moore went on to win the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with West Ham in over 500 appearances. He captained his country for the first time at age 22 in 1963 – England’s youngest ever captain. This remarkable progress was building up to something great, but could anybody have known what was to come?
Hero, legend and champion
The 1966 World Cup is arguably the defining moment in England’s proud sporting history. England got through the group stages with little difficulty, before beating Argentina and a fine Portuguese squad in the knock-out rounds. A final with West Germany at Wembley on July 30 was well-earned.
Still captained by Moore, England went into the match as favourites, but it wasn’t the best of starts; Helmut Haller scored in the 12th minute, making it 1-0 to West Germany. England looked to their consummate captain for a response, and 6 minutes later he delivered, with an emphatic free kick into the German box. Geoff Hurst rose unchallenged and levelled the score. Game on.
“They think it’s all over. It is now!”
The teams were level at half-time, and after 77 minutes England went 2-1 up thanks to Martin Peters. Down but far from beaten, Germany pressed for an equaliser and got one in the 88th minute, taking the game into extra time. After 11 minutes, Geoff Hurst got his brace with a goal that, to this day, remains controversial. Moore picked out an unmarked Hurst in the final minute of the game, making the final result 4-2 and prompting one of the most famous quips of sports commentary.
Victorious and jubilant, Moore led his England team up to the royal box to collect the solid gold Jules Rimet trophy from Her Majesty the Queen, becoming the first Englishman to hold the World Cup aloft. Shortly after, Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson, together with Martin Peters, lifted their captain onto their shoulders in triumph. This iconic moment remains one of the most enduring images of the celebrations in Wembley.
As a result of this success, Moore became a national icon. He remained England’s captain during the 1970 World Cup, a bittersweet campaign which saw England lose to – would you believe it – West Germany in the quarter finals. It was at the 1970 tournament where Moore swapped shirts with Pelé, demonstrating a shared sense of respect between two of the biggest names in the game.
Moore played his last game for West Ham in 1974 and for England in 1973. He retired in 1978.
Later life and illness
After football, Moore’s life was difficult. His first marriage ended in 1986 and he never found a role that, arguably, a man of his talents and grace was suited for. Moore had survived a brush with cancer in 1964 but in 1993, Moore announced that he was again suffering from cancer and this time, it was terminal. He died just over a week later, on 24 February at the age of 51.
The country was deeply saddened by this tragic loss. West Ham’s ground was awash with floral tributes and football memorabilia. Moore’s iconic shirt number – number 6 – could be seen everywhere. His importance to the local community and the area in which he grew up and made his name could not have been more self-evident. In his memory, millions have been raised for bowel cancer research.
In 2007, a statue of Moore was unveiled outside of the new Wembley Stadium. It features the inscription:
Immaculate footballer. Imperial defender. Immortal hero of 1966. First Englishman to raise the World Cup aloft. Favourite son of London’s East End. Finest legend of West Ham United. National Treasure. Master of Wembley. Lord of the game. Captain extraordinary. Gentleman of all time.
The blue plaque unveiled at his childhood home in Barking will tell those walking by that, here was the place where English football’s greatest hero and eternal champion started his life. In such memorials, Bobby Moore lives on.
Discover more of London’s blue plaques
English Heritage’s new Blue Plaques of London app is available to download for free on iOS and Android devices. It includes a guided walk around Soho – and we learned some really interesting things when we tried it out.
You can find out more about the scheme, including how to nominate someone for a blue plaque, on the English Heritage website.