After 43 years of hurt the national football team has quite a weight on its shoulders; looking ahead to the summer in South Africa, we talk to a living legend, Sir Geoff Hurst, our hat-trick hero of ’66.
Hurst speaks to us of the changing nature of respect within the game, looking at the structure of the wage system, and about his continuing involvement in the beautiful game.
More than ever England supporters are searching for a player to step up, like Geoff did all those years ago. Only 8 games into his international career, he found himself replacing the injured Jimmy Greaves in the Quarterfinal game against Argentina. He quickly cemented a partnership with the prolific striker Roger Hunt and went on to play the remaining games of the tournament. Despite Greaves returning to fitness in time for the West Germany Final, the enigmatic manager, Ramsay, put faith in the relatively inexperienced Hurst. That faith was emphatically rewarded with the only World cup final hat-trick in footballing history.
Looking ahead to the summer, we quizzed Sir Geoff over his views on the potential of the squad, individual players and manager.
C: Sir Geoff, what are your views on Capello? Do you believe he’s the right man for the job?
SGH: Capello is definitely the right guy; there is no question about that, right from the moment he took the job. He has proved to be a tremendous success.
C: What do you think of him being a non-English manager?
SGH: In an ideal world English people would like an English manager, but football these days is a global game and to an extent it was so in my day, and you want the best person possible for the job. The previous manager, in my opinion, didn’t do a very good job. I think this guy’s CV is fantastic; he’s done it as a player, as a manager of a big club with big players. But if we win the world cup we won’t give a monkey’s whatever…it’s 11 English guys winning the World Cup.
C: Where do you think it’s going wrong?
The problem is we don’t have enough English managers working at the top level at the best clubs in the Premier League. You need that graduation as a player or a manager at the top half of the league going on and developing to become the national manager.
C: In what way do you think Capello has changed the side?
There’s been a huge change in the attitudes and discipline of the players in the squad. The respect is there, there has been a lot more discipline in the squad and that is the big thing. At least we know the team are going to be prepared well.
The structure of the sport has changed dramatically since the professional era took off in the ‘90s. Referees undoubtedly take a lot more abuse these days, with the excitement of the game often taking precedent over fair play. In Hurst’s opinion this stems from the context of today’s culture; a culture of little respect, starting from school and leading into sport. He spoke of how the diving and conning of the referee has significantly infiltrated the game, supporting the potential introduction of technology into the officiating of matches; given it doesn’t interfere with the speed or excitement of the game.
The astronomical wage payments dished out to the top players are in his eyes well deserved as they are ‘going rate’, however when comparing his substantial pay packet of £140 a week with that of Frank Lampard’s paltry £140,000, there has obviously been an exponential rise of money going into the game. The problem he notes with the huge influx of wages is that a large host of average players are being paid an extortionate amount, for playing mediocre football. A rising tide floats all boats.
After his successful playing career, Hurst briefly remained in football, managing Chelsea. Hurst later moved into the business world of insurance, only semi-retiring in 2002-a career for some reason it’s hard to imagine Rooney slotting into with such ease! For retiring players after a short intense professional career, often lasting no more than 10 years they have a lot more opportunities than in his day. Many of the top players have the choice of moving into a managerial role, taking part in the media circus that surrounds the modern game, or even just retiring. This financial stability certainly did not feature within his day, and bears testament to how the global game of football has become ever more commercialised.
A busy man, he currently spends his time as the director of football for McDonalds, conducting after-dinner speaking and working hard within his role as President of the sporting charity Sparks. A national symbol, Hurst reminded us of the importance respect plays within the game, a noble attitude in tow and a desire to win might just take a so far underachieving England side to the finals. We can but dream!
Lets have a look at some of Geoff’s last minute predictions.
Varsity game- Unbiased, sitting here talking to you so Oxford.
Premiership- between Chelsea and Man Utd, I personally want Arsenal to win this year, I admire what Arsene Wenger has done, bringing young players through. If Chelsea keep their players fit, they will probably win, strong squad.
Champions league- Chelsea again but might be hard to do the two.
They think it’s all over… it is now.