My greatest game
To kick-off our new 'My greatest game' series Liverpool legend Roger Hunt re-lives his finest moment in an England shirt. Geoff Hurst stole the headlines from the 1966 World Cup final but it was Hunt who played in all six games as England claimed football's biggest prize on home soil...
By (as told to) Alex Dunn - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsaldunn
Last Updated: 11/10/12 2:29pm
Set the scene: The year is 1966. John Lennon's proclamation that The Beatles are now bigger than Jesus Christ has caused outrage but Revolver is nonetheless fighting Pet Sounds for playing time on the turntable. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the year's big picture but it's Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up that best defines what's swinging in sixties London. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton are the models of choice for Vogue, with Britain the new epicentre for fashionistas across the globe. Harold Wilson presides over a Labour Government in a decade that's all about social change, if not always the revolutions claimed on anti-establishment placards. Most importantly, on the pitch, Alf Ramsey's side is brimming with genuine world class talent. Which is handy as England are the hosts for the eighth World Cup and a nation expects.
Roger Hunt takes up the story: The pressure was enormous going into the tournament. The whole country expected us to win. Alf Ramsey had said before it got under way that we'd win the World Cup. We hadn't lost a game for quite a while and had a good record of consecutive wins and draws dating back to the previous World Cup. Having not really been beaten for a long time there was no escaping that level of expectancy.
The first year I played for England was back in 1962. This was before Ramsey, when Walter Winterbottom was the manager. I went to Chile for that year's World Cup and didn't get a game so I knew what it was like to miss out.
I wasn't a regular in the England team and even Ramsey hadn't picked me for quite a while prior to '65 when I'd had a good year at Liverpool. I'd played a couple of times on tours for Ramsey and then didn't feature. Scoring all those goals for Liverpool in the season immediately before the World Cup gave me a chance and seemed to convince the manager I was worth my place. We played Spain in Madrid in a friendly just before the World Cup and I did quite well - so that helped too. All the time though, I never knew if I'd get picked.
Getting in the squad was the main thing to be honest, the rest I could take from there.
Those couple of years in the mid-sixties were big ones in my career. In '65 we'd won the FA Cup at Liverpool for the first time ever and I always used to say that was my ambition fulfilled. I wasn't thinking of World Cups, that was another world.
When the tournament got under way I started the first game against Uruguay up front with Jimmy Greaves. We didn't play too well and it finished in a goalless draw. The fact there was 22 players to try and get into the 11, because there was no subs in those days, meant it was always nerve-wracking to learn if you'd be playing. Geoff Hurst wasn't in the team at this point. I played with Jimmy quite a few times and always enjoyed it. He had more skill that me and scored goals from anywhere. Although he were both goalscorers Jimmy was a bit different and but we complemented one another.
Geoff was a bit more physical and better in the air. West Ham with Ron Greenwood had fine-tuned some moves over the years that the England team actually copied. You can see one of them replicated with Geoff's goal against Argentina in the quarter-final. Whenever Martin Peters crossed it to Geoff he just knew where his team-mate would be. Peters was on the left, and it didn't matter where Geoff was, he'd just hit it to the near post. By this time Geoff, whenever Martin got the ball in that position, would make his move. If you watch it on TV it's a fantastic goal against Argentina and one he scored often for West Ham.
Before the final all the strikers were worried. I'd played in all five games before the West Germany game but I still wasn't sure whether I'd start at Wembley. The papers in the build-up were debating about who would play. Would it be Jimmy or Geoff who started, or would it be me who missed out? I wasn't confident one way or the other. I'd scored three goals in the group games so that obviously helped and Geoff had scored the winner against Argentina. People forget that Jimmy actually got injured before the Argentina game and wasn't dropped as such. Thankfully I'd done enough and got the nod to start alongside Geoff against the Germans, who looked a good side in getting to the final.
When you're standing in the dressing room before a World Cup final there are a lot of emotions drifting around but you're nervous first and foremost, you can't get away from that. Bobby Moore was the captain and he led by example, he was a great, great leader and helped us all. Helped to settle our nerves.
What often gets forgotten about the game was how close we were to winning it in normal-time. Their second goal, from Wolfgang Weber to make it 2-2, was right on full-time. All of a sudden you've gone from thinking 'I've won a World Cup winners' medal' to 'it's been snatched away'. I felt, as you would expect, absolutely gutted. How can you get so close to a winners' medal and lose it?
Just minutes later when the referee blew for full-time Alf Ramsey came onto the pitch and gave us a bit of a talk. The Germans were tired. You could see it in their faces. They were sitting around and that's when Ramsey told us 'you've beaten them once and now you've got to beat them again'. I think we were stronger than them - overall. I'm not saying fitness wise but in that period of extra-time we dominated them when the momentum should have been Germany's.
Ramsey was very good but he was a very strict manager. He'd come to you and say 'this is what I want' and that was it. No small talk. He wasn't like Shankly, who was a lot more outspoken and a bit louder. He was upfront - he'd say 'you're better than them - no-one can beat my team'- it was very different. Both of them, in their own way though, were terrific managers. Ramsey was very quiet, studious even and would get his point across by pulling you to one side. He didn't give you a lot of compliments. You had to earn them.
Then came Geoff Hurst's second 'goal'. I'm convinced it was over the line to this day - absolutely convinced. The Germans played man-for-man and Weber was marking me. Everywhere I went, he was my shadow. By this point in extra-time the game had opened up because they were tired. Alan Ball, the midfield player, finished up on the wing and he was giving the full-back Karl-Heinz Schnellinger a real chasing.
On this particular run he'd gone past his man again and as he crossed to Geoff I was seven or eight yards from goal. Geoff was to my right. Just as he hit the ball, on the half volley, I was moving in. Weber was behind me, and I'd got half a yard on him. I was by this time right in front of goal, less than six yards out, dead centre in the middle. It's hit the bar, bounced down and I'm still convinced it went over the line.
Instinctively I turned and went the other way to celebrate. I was with George Cohen the other day and we were talking it about it. He said 'you'd have never got to the ball'. He's right, I wouldn't have. Definitely not. It didn't just bounce in front of me but way off to other side. People always say to me 'why didn't just put it in?' - as if it was just waiting there to be scored. I was desperate to score in a final. Nothing more I would have loved to have scored in the final. I was famed for getting in there as a natural goalscorer, so it wasn't as though I didn't know how to sniff out a chance.
I think we should have goal-line technology, no doubt. Not for other incidents but just for goals, to get the biggest decisions right.When the fourth goal went in was a surreal experience, with people on the pitch. I'm not sure how many got on but it was very strange. The rest is a bit of a blur.
After the match I went back to training three days later. Bill Shankly being a Scotsman wasn't too keen that we'd won the World Cup. It didn't seem such a big deal at the time, it's only later that its significance has sunk in. As the years have gone on with England having failed to win it again - although we've gone close a couple of times - it's becomes an iconic sporting moment.
I guess if we'd won it again since we wouldn't be talking about 1966 now, would we?
Roger Hunt was speaking at the launch of The Football Pools 90th Season campaign - In the 90th - that crucial minute when fortunes are decided. Over the last 90 years The Football Pools has paid out £3.2billion to 61million winners and donated over £1.1billion to good causes - play now at www.thefootballpools.com.