Immortalised that July day in 1966 at Wembley, and still the only man to score a World Cup Final hat-trick, it’s hard to believe Geoff Hurst’s international bow came just five months earlier. The Final was just his eighth cap.
He had started out as a wing-half, initially as an understudy to Bobby Moore at West Ham. But as a converted striker, replacing Jimmy Greaves for the quarter-final clash with Argentina, Hurst’s unruffled approach proved critical on the biggest afternoon of his footballing life.
Where Hurst’s striking rival, Greaves, offered flashes of brilliance mixed with bouts of anonymity, his constant presence, work ethic and superb aerial ability – illustrated by his match-winner against Argentina and the glancing header beyond Hans Tilkowski for England’s equaliser against the West Germans – were more aligned with Alf Ramsey’s tastes.
To scale such great heights so early in one’s international career would have harmed lesser players. It was testament to Hurst’s enthusiasm that he emerged in 1970 from the crushing disappointment of Mexico as one of his country’s better performers.
His time with England came to an end fittingly against the West Germans in an exit from the 1972 European Championship.
Scarcely a day goes by without a reminder of Hurst’s deeds of 40 years ago – he assisted Ron Greenwood as England coach from 1977 to 1982 and was deservedly knighted in 1998.