By Daniel Parker
“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.” –Sir Alf Ramsey
Bobby Moore is an icon. He earned his place in football’s pantheon by captaining England to their only World Cup triumph in 1966 and his rightful place amongst the football greats is immortalised in bronze outside Wembley Stadium. He represented West Ham United over 500 times and was described by Pele as ‘the most accomplished defender [he has] ever played against’.
From the iconic image of Bobby Moore holding the World Cup trophy aloft to the famous embrace between him and Pele during the 1970 World Cup, from his loyalty to West Ham United Football Club to his brave struggle against bowel cancer in his later years, Bobby Moore represents a significant chapter in the history of world football. But what about the man behind the bronze? To mark the twentieth anniversary of his death (February 24), here are five things you might not have known about the man known as Mooro:
(1) Bobby Moore was a good footballer as a schoolboy but he wasn’t exceptional. In fact, he was a better cricketer than he was a footballer and for a while it seemed he was more likely to make it as a professional cricketer. He represented Tom Hood Grammar School in Leyton at both cricket and football, and played county cricket for the Essex Youth team. It was only after a few years did his football ability begin to shine.
(2) The England team that arrived in Mexico to defend the World Cup in 1970 were high in confidence. However, Bobby Moore was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t with the squad as they arrived in Mexico. Instead he was being held in Bogota, Columbia, arrested and facing charges of stealing an emerald-studded gold bracelet valued at over £600. The ordeal Moore went through before joining up with his England team-mates is common knowledge. What is less widely known, however, is that he still faced those charges when he went to Mexico to captain his country at the World Cup. He arguably even played the greatest game he had ever played for England against Brazil in the quarter-finals, despite not knowing whether he would be found innocent or guilty by the Columbian police. He was later found innocent.
(3) Despite his fabled heroics with England, Moore’s club form never reached the same heights as his performances for the national team. West Ham had three England regulars in their side throughout the 1960s but they never finished higher than eighth in the league. It was suggested by his manager at the time, Ron Greenwood, that Moore concentrated harder on his performances for England than he did for West Ham. Although West Ham did win the FA Cup in 1964 and the European cup winners’ trophy in 1965, their star players, including Bobby Moore, were criticised for being ‘as erratic as dock work’.
(4) After his playing career Bobby Moore part-owned pubs and clubs across east London. Many of these were successful business ventures, notably Mooro’s, and his status in London’s east end helped these businesses flourish. However, he also was part of the failed sports marketing and promotion company Challenge. After only a few years, in the early 1990s, Challenge went into liquidation, an illustration that leading a nation on the football pitch perhaps came more naturally to Moore than leading a business.
(5) Bobby Moore’s last appearance in an FA Cup final wasn’t for his beloved West Ham United but against them. The season after Moore transferred from West Ham to Fulham, he guided Fulham to an FA Cup Final in 1975. Having led West Ham to FA Cup glory in 1964, it is ironic that Moore’s last club game in England in 1975 came against the side that he represented 544 times. West Ham ended up winning in a game that provoked mixed emotions for Moore. Also, not only did Moore play for Fulham, one of Moore’s middle names is Chelsea. It’s unlikely that many Hammers would hold this against him though.
To read more about the life of Bobby Frederick Chelsea Moore, please visit his biography page on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Moore’s life story is also available as an episode in the ODNB’s free biography podcast.
Daniel Parker is Publicity Assistant for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century. In addition to 58,500 life stories, the ODNB offers a free, twice monthly biography podcastwith over 175 life stories now available. You can also sign up for Life of the Day, a topical biography delivered to your inbox, or follow @odnb on Twitter for people in the news. The Oxford DNB is freely available via public libraries across the UK. Libraries offer ‘remote access’ allowing members to log-on to the complete dictionary, for free, from home (or any other computer) twenty-four hours a day.
Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only sports articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Image credit: Bobby Moore statue by John Dobson [Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons].