“Of the hundreds of defenders who played against me during my career I pick Bobby Moore as the greatest of them all.”
Praise indeed when you consider the speaker is Pelé, who famously swapped shirts with the skipper after holders England were beaten by soon-to-be winners Brazil in the 1970 World Cup.
Few would disagree with Pelé’s verdict. Moore was the complete defender.
Strong in the air, clinical in the tackle, his distribution was impeccable. He was no sprinter but his ability to read the game meant that he was rarely caught out for pace.
And he was so even-tempered that he rarely flapped or got booked (Pelé, again, called him the fairest defender he had ever played against).
Such ability soon established the West Ham star as a fixture in the national team. He had won 17 caps when he became England’s youngest captain at the age of 22 against Czechoslovakia in May 1963.
Moore would equal Billy Wright’s record of leading his country 90 times in an international career whose pinnacle was lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 (he was also voted the Player of Players in that World Cup).
Moore was more than just a footballer. He was a national icon, as much a symbol – in the 1960s – of his changing country as The Beatles.
Fittingly, it was his 40-yard pass that found Hurst for England’s fourth goal at Wembley on 30 July 1966.