Author of the most celebrated moment in English football history, Sir Geoff Hurst is a national icon.
As all English football fans will be aware, Hurst's defining moment came in extra-time of the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. Leading 3-2 thanks to Hurst's famous 'ghost goal', England were on the cusp of making history, and when he broke free of the German defence to blast home his third and England's fourth with the last kick of the game, victory was sealed. The moment was immortalized by Kenneth Wolstenholme's legendary BBC television commentary:
"And here comes Hurst. He's got… Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!"
With that goal, Hurst secured the only hat-trick ever scored in a World Cup final. This from a man who was originally named in Alf Ramsey's squad as back-up to Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt. Indeed, Hurst's international debut only came five months before England hosted the World Cup, and while he was already an established favourite at West Ham United, he was a relative unknown at international level.
The Lancashire-born striker began his club career at West Ham in 1959. He started out as a midfielder but was soon converted by manager Ron Greenwood. In the four seasons that preceded the 1966 World Cup, Hurst scored 67 goals in 145 First Division appearances for the Hammers. He also picked up an FA Cup winners medal in 1964 and won the European Cup Winners' Cup against 1860 Munich the following year.
Hurst's club form guaranteed him a place in Alf Ramsey's World Cup squad of 22 but, as expected, it was Greaves and Hunt who started in the group games against Mexico, Uruguay and France. Hurst's lucky break came when, during the England's 2-0 victory over France, Greaves required stitches on a badly gashed leg. Hurst was called up in his place for the quarter-final against Argentina, and he made himself a hero when his near post header in the 78th minute secured a 1-0 victory for the hosts.
Together with Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, Hurst completed a trio of West Ham players in the England line-up, and with Greaves still sidelined, the team maintained its East London spine for the semi-final against Eusebio's Portugal. Again, Hurst played a crucial role, providing the assist for the second of West Ham teammate Moore's brace as England triumphed 2-1.
As the final approached, news of Greaves' return to fitness broke to the media, who started calling for the prolific Spurs frontman to be reinstated at Hurst's expense. Ramsey's decision to stand by Hurst in the face of growing pressure was a bold one, but one that would be emphatically vindicated.
It was West Germany who started brightest in the final, with Helmut Haller giving them the lead after 12 minutes. Hurst equalised six minutes later after heading home a smartly-taken free-kick from Bobby Moore, and after Mark Peters gave England the lead with less than 15 minutes to play, only a last minute leveler from Wolfgang Weber prevented an England victory in normal time.
Hurst's second strike is another unforgettable moment in World Cup history, as his shot in the first half of extra-time crashed off the underside of the bar and was controversially adjudged to have crossed the line. Goal-line technology has since been applied to conclude that the ball had, in fact, not fully crossed the line, but that is a minor detail to England fans. Ramsey's side were on course for victory, and as the final second's ticked away and the elated home crowd began to trickle onto the pitch in celebration, Hurst broke away for his legendary hat-trick goal.
In an international career that continued until 1972, Hurst scored 24 goals in 49 appearances. For West Ham he scored 252 goals in 499 before seeing out his playing days at Stoke City, West Brom and Seattle Sounders in the US. He was knighted and awarded an MBE for his services to football. But he will forever be associated with that magical day in 1966.