Saturday, 23 February 2008

Bobby Moore Remembered

Fifteen years ago, on 24 February 1993, football fans in England and across the world united to mourn the tragic death of Bobby Moore at the age of just 51. Instinctively, thousands of them made their way to the Boleyn Ground to pay their respects and leave claret and blue tributes ranging from shirts and scarves to flags and flowers. It was not just West Ham United fans either. Rightly regarded as one of the all-time greats, Moore stood for everything that was right about the game and his passing compelled supporters of other clubs to offer condolences.

In his remarkable career, the legendary Barking-born defender served West Ham United to distinction between 1958 and 1974 before a three-year stint with Fulham. Moore helped the east London club to FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup glory as well as winning 108 England caps and lifting the World Cup trophy in the 1966 final at Wembley. That led to Royal recognition with his OBE in 1967. His achievements will never be forgotten. Indeed, visitors to the Boleyn Ground cannot miss the Bobby Moore Stand built in 1993 which serves as permanent recognition. Then there is the blue plaque in his honour outside and the statue on the corner of Green Street. Much more than all of those things, however, is the unseen legacy in the heart of every fan - that unstinting expectation of football played the right way by those who understand what it means to wear the shirt.

Moore's name also lives on with the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research, set up by his widow Stephanie to raise money in his memory. The bowel cancer that claimed his life is the third most common type of the disease in the UK after breast and lung cancer. Around 100 people in this country are diagnosed every day. The Bobby Moore Fund is one of West Ham United's two chosen charities this season. Bobby Moore was the essence of West Ham United. A local boy made good who walked with the best on a global stage but always in a down to earth manner that never belied his roots. His is the standard by which all others are judged.

Incredibly, this afternoon's fixture list has paired together West Ham and Fulham, the two English clubs for whom he played during an 18-year career. The match will provide a poignant memorial to the man who captained England to success in the 1966 World Cup final, as well as leading West Ham to victory in the FA Cup in 1964, and the European Cup-Winners' Cup the following year. "We will try and honour the occasion as much as we can," Alan Curbishley said. "Both teams will wear armbands. It is quite right that someone of his stature should be remembered."

Today's match has considerable significance for both sets of players regardless of the connection with Moore. West Ham require points toward their push for European qualification; Fulham, meanwhile, are three points adrift of safety and desperate to extricate themselves from the relegation zone. Lucas Neill was just short of his 15th birthday when Moore died aged 51, recognised the mantle he has taken over. "I have the utmost respect for his achievements," Neill said, "so it is an honour to wear the captain's armband like he did for West Ham."

At about the same age as Neill was in 1993, Curbishley was training regularly with West Ham, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Moore, before following him into the first team. "I used to come to West Ham as a schoolboy and do pre-season training with Bobby Moore," Curbishley said. "We used to go running around Epping Forest and I soon became aware that he knew a shortcut or two. I was about 14, but [then manager] Ron Greenwood invited me to do pre-season during the school holidays. My introduction to the club was people like Bobby and Frank Lampard Snr."

Curbishley, now 50, did not break into the West Ham team until shortly after Moore left in March 1974 to wind down his domestic career at Craven Cottage. During his 16 years at Upton Park, Moore played nearly 550 League games, and he made more than 120 League appearances for Fulham during three years there before heading out to the United States to play for San Antonio Thunder and Seattle Sounders. Co-incidentally, at the end of his first full season with Fulham, they reached the FA Cup final where, co-incidentally, they met West Ham. There was no sentimental swansong for Moore, though, as Alan Taylor scored twice in West Ham's 2-0 win. "I was an apprentice here at the time," Curbishley said, "and I had played in a couple of games near the final and I thought I might have been in the squad, but I wasn't. I went to the final as part of the club and it was a great result."

Fulham were in the Second Division at the time, and face a return to the second tier unless Roy Hodgson can conjure the type of escape that Curbishley managed at West Ham a year ago. West Ham won seven of their last nine games to stay up, and when asked what Fulham need to do in their remaining dozen games, Curbishley said starkly: "Win six more games. That is all I can say. Last year, we were in a very similar position with 12 games to go. We know what they are up against. Hodgson has steadied the ship. Now he just needs to pick up results."

1 comment:

WileyCoyote said...

I saw Mooros first game at West ham when Allison stepped down, having been diagnosed with TB. I remember him being picked to play for England and then captain he was VERY young. He could turn matches that were going against the game plan by intuitive on field decisions- ie Hursts goal against the Argies in 1966. He is exactly what England have missed over the last ten years. When heads start to go down, turning the game with a midas touch. If he were playing now England would have won another major trophy. Our so called world class players lack the intelligence to turn a game or hold on to a lead-as Bilic said "England will panic". With the original Golden Balls, no panic, as he was the steadying influence. Just like Johnston with Rugby and Brearley with cricket, gone but never forgotten.


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