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Only one man has ever scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final – England’s Geoff Hurst. And what a hat trick it was. A brilliant header, a swivel shot from a tight angle, and a clean break ending in a rocket shot. No tap-ins from Geoff – every goal was an absolute belter, which makes the feat even more memorable.

56 years later, PlayStB has an exclusive catch up with the legend Sir Geoff Hurst in the back of a car whilst on his way to another World Cup engagement...

GH: Sorry about the delay – there’s been a very nasty accident. Four lanes down to two, four ambulances fire engines… when we got there two cars smashed into each other. So, sorry, for being late…

StB:You should have got a helicopter, Geoff, you wouldn't have had this hassle...

(Geoff laughs)

StB: So looking at the professional game today compared to your day, is there one thing in particular that is much better today? And I have a feeling you’re going to say ‘money!’

GH: Money – I’ll get on to that in a minute – but I’d say it’s the sheer size of the industry. It’s a gigantic difference. I guess any industry becomes a giant after 50-60 years, but football has become a truly global industry. And every single thing I look back on is with one with great amusement. Players used to catch the bus to the game with the fans! The biggest difference now, of course, is money. But that doesn't make me envious at all. Good luck to the way the game is today. I always joke that every single thing has changed in the game apart from the goalposts. The goalposts haven't moved. And that's about the only thing that's not moved in the football industry since the 50s or 60s!

StB: Is there one major thing that you see as a negative that's been lost along the way?

GH: Yes, definitely. There are several things which have impacted in a negative way. The main one being VAR. It’s a real negative as far as I’m concerned. I really don’t think that VAR is the answer. I think that goal line technology was absolutely spot on. It doesn't take any time to decide, whether it's on a referee's watch, it's either in or it’s out - full stop! I don’t think we should interfere with the game – we shouldn’t do anything that is going to stop the game for an amount of time like we see in sports in the USA. What we now have with VAR is a game that is stopped while they discuss a particular point. The ref goes over to a screen, they hang around, if you score a goal and VAR is looking at it, you can't celebrate - and I think that’s probably the single most disappointing thing. And I'm not alone in my view. When I talk to football fans, most of them are not very happy about it.

StB: Can you still get excited about a World Cup after your amazing experiences?

GH: Yes, absolutely. It was such a gigantic part of my life – and even though I'm not as closely involved as I used to be, it’s still exciting and the anticipation is always there. Having said that, you'll never be able to substitute the experience of what you had when you've been part of a team. The achievement was so great back in ’66 that if even if you wanted to, you’re never going to get away from the game. And the fact we haven’t had the same success in the last 56 years means that people are still focussed on our success.

Hurst, Pele and Moore
Geoff, Pele & Bobby - the three amigos!

StB: So how do you rate England's chances in Qatar then? And be totally honest Geoff, come on!

(Geoff laughs)

GH: No, I’m going to be totally honest – and that’s actually a good point to make. So, being totally honest, you've only got to look at our record since Gareth Southgate took over – semi-final of the World Cup and the final of the euros. We hadn’t ever been in the final before! The results recently have been very disappointing, but they’ll be completely dismissed if we get out there and do well. And seriously, if you’d have asked me how England would have done prior to Gareth Southgate being in charge, I would have said that I have been very disappointed in in the progress of the national side. You know, Iceland beating us, a couple of qualifying games where we were not good enough - we were hugely disappointing. I think it's a positive that the World Cup is halfway through the season. I think that at the end of a long season where all the top-rated players playing for the big clubs are involved in everything throughout the season is tough. The Premier league is the toughest league in the world -and at the back end of the season it’s difficult for all the players to get up to the physical standard required to win the World Cup. Midway through the season, they should be at their peak.

StB: Do you think that there's one particular player in the England team who is a bit of a dark horse who could really propel himself into world superstardom during the World Cup?

GH: Yes, I think there are two players. I would pick Declan Rice of West Ham. I'd also picked Jude Bellingham - I think he's on the verge now of getting regularly into the team. And I think he's a fantastic all-round player. And I'd like to see him just add to his goal tally, just like Declan. We need some goals from the middle of the park, as well as relying on Harry Kane. To be honest, we've got a very, very good bunch of young players who are fairly experienced now. Probably the best bunch of players I think we've had in years – in fact it’s very difficult to pick the team at the moment because they're all very competitive. We've got four or five full backs who are brilliant -even Trent Alexander-Arnold is struggling to get in the squad. So that’s the kind of competition for places we have at the moment in defence. We just need more goals from the midfield. Harry can’t do it all!

StB: Here we go – here’s the inevitable question about your hat trick! What has been the biggest positive about it? And what has been the biggest negative – if there is one??

Geoff laughs)

GH: There hasn’t been a negative, not for one second! Although… it's been a negative for everybody else who tried to do it, of course!

StB: Do you think people feel a bit wary about talking to you about it - because they think you'll be sick of it?

GH: Do I get fed up? No, never! You know, we do Q&A on stage in the theatres where people ask questions, and of course, it’s always a talking point – but I enjoy it, and people love talking about it too. So, the answer categorically is no. Absolutely!

There's no negative to it at all. The only negative is for every other centre-forward who’s played for England since, to score three! And for all the strikers in every other country too. I think there’s been 56 hat-tricks scored at World Cup finals, but only mine in the actual final itself!

StB: Bearing in mind the huge changes in the industry - if you were a young player in today's professional game, do you think you'd be able to cope with the scrutiny that they're under? What I’m saying is, would you go ‘off the rails’, Geoff?

(Geoff laughs)

GH: Firstly, I don’t think I would because I think I have quite a solid character and a ‘just get on with it’ attitude – that’s how my wife describes me! Yeah, I just get on with it.

geoff with world cup
Geoff's still got his hands on the trophy!

At the ’66 World Cup, I was left out of the team at first, but I didn’t let it affect me, I just got on with it and worked as hard as I possibly could. I wasn’t disappointed - I was just happy to be there as I’d only been involved with the squad for a couple of months -so I took it on the chin. If you have the right attitude, hopefully things will work out…

StB: Footballers had to have the right attitude and another occupation to make ends meet back in the 50’s and 60’s… World Cup winner Ray Wilson became an undertaker…

GH: Yeah, that’s right – there are a lot of similar stories. One of the all-time greats, Tony Finney was a plumber by trade. He used to go and fix people’s pipes on the way home from games!

StB: Well, it's always good to have a trade, Geoff!

GH (laughs)

GH: Absolutely. Back then, once you were 35 you were out. And that was that!

StB:Yeah, funnily enough. we were reading an interview you did with The Guardian. And you were talking about when you were an insurance salesman. It’s incredible to think that you didn't couldn't even get football-related work, with all your experience…

GH: Yes, that’s right. And it didn’t just apply to me – it was the same for all the ex-players. That's where things were at, unfortunately.

StB: So, Geoff, thinking about the England 66 team – was it just a coincidental collection of the most extraordinary individuals that could win a World Cup, or were you systematically coached to win it, If you get our drift?

GH: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. The team three years prior to the World Cup was systematically chosen for their ability, their dedication, their straightforwardness, their attitude. They were picked by Sir Alf specifically – and they were, as I’d call them – a group of hard-nosed players. Anyone who didn’t have the right attitude was moved out of the squad. The players had to be able to work together – and I would highlight Jack Charlton being picked to play alongside Bobby Moore. Bobby was the best player I played with – he was a great captain, a great leader and importantly, a great reader of the game. Jack was almost thirty at the time, and he was interested to know why he’d been picked at that late stage of his career. I think Sir Alf replied something like, “I don’t pick the best players, I pick the players who play well together…” And that central pairing was so important for England.

So that was a systematic process, I think, over a three-year period, Sam Of course, why the other thing is to say we had arguably the best backbone of a team we've ever had in England: Banks, Moore, Charlton and Jimmy Greaves – although Greaves obviously didn’t play in the final. It would be hard to name a better backbone of an English team than the one we had in 66.

StB: You know, we saw a great photograph today online and it was Jimmy Greaves during the halftime break having a cigarette and a cup of tea. It’s a bit of romantic image of days gone by, isn’t it? He’s gone out, put in a big shift, then it’s tea break and back out to finish the job!

GH (laughs)

GH: Yeah, that was Greavsie! You know, it wasn’t just a relationship on the football field that finished after the World Cup… we all meet up for many years for a two-day golf event all the wives came along. We had great fun and it was more than just football. We continued that for decades and we only stopped it around ten years ago when numbers started to dwindle.

StB: Okay Geoff, we know you played against some pretty good teams – but you played against Brazil in 1970 – often rated as the best team EVER! What was it like playing against them? And what was so good about these guys?

GH: Well firstly, they had some great individual players. Pele, Jairzinho – who scored in every game – Rivelino. The front line was FANTASTIC! Tostao… the team was full of gifted players. But we weren’t far behind them. In fact there was a period where England was a fantastic side too and for a period of around seven years, we were the team to beat as we’d just won the World Cup in ’66.

We played Brazil in the early rounds of the 1970 World Cup and we played a great game, only losing 1-0. It was in their own back yard [Mexico] in scorching temperatures they were much more used to. Our performance actually made me realise what a good team WE were. I’ve since watched the whole game and we were fantastic against arguably the great team ever to win a World Cup. It was a great time for England and we had an enviable reputation. And, of course, Brazil were sensational!

StB: Can you remember whose shirt you got after the Brazil game in 1970?

GH: We didn’t actually change shirts! I know Bobby and Pele did – in that famous photo, but I don’t think any of the other guys changed shirts with anyone, it wasn’t really a ‘thing’ then. Bobby and Pele were awesome- it was a great duel.

pele and bobby
Pele & Bobby Moore- the first footy bromance!

StB: So Geoff, we’re going to take you back now – not to the World Cup, but to something MORE EXCITING THAN THAT! We're bringing back spot the ball! Do you remember the game spot the ball when you do growing up? Did anybody in your family actually play it?

GH: Oh yeah, I remember Spot the Ball, of course -it was very popular. It was everywhere…

StB: Around 3 million people used to play spot the ball every week!

GH: That’s a lot of people! I know it was a big thing. I don’t recall playing it, but I was very aware of it and saw it regularly in the newspapers. I know that it wasn’t just a competition to try and locate the ball, it was also fun too – wasn’t it run by Littlewoods Pools?

StB: Yeah, that’s right. Well we’re bringing it back and we’re gunna give the winners some prizes such as a ’66 shirt signed by YOU and many of the squad!

GH: Well that’s a great prize (laughs) I haven’t even got one of those myself!

Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Geoff Hurst coming soon!

Try our super funky World Cup quiz and see if you're brain can handle it!

Want to be in with a shout of winning more Geoff Hurst memorabilia? Visit the Ebuyer blog here!

Written by Graham Hey