As this day of huge nostalgia on the 50th anniversary of our World Cup victory comes to an end I want to recall recall the man whom I came to know as a work colleague and a friend – the immortal Mooro. This piece was first published a couple of years ago and contains a minor amendment as an update. Mooro was the greatest footballer I ever saw and probably the greatest man I ever knew. This is my personal tribute. HUGH
Idols come and icons go but Bobby Moore’s legendary status will never die!
Not many people have got it all…amazing ability, charisma, dignity and charm – Mooro was one of a very select few.
I first watched him play from the old west enclosure. The natural ability, composure on the ball, timing in the tackle and impeccable ability to pick out the perfect pass were the hallmarks of his golden game from a very early age.
He became an obsession in my life. I lived for Saturday afternoon’s home and away to watch a man who for me was as big in my life as The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and all the others. And trust me they were BIG!
We all dream what seem impossible dreams and mine was to one day meet Mooro…not for an autograph or a brief handshake but as a friend.
I wanted to ask all the questions that hurtled around so many minds – where did he learn the game? When did he realise he was so naturally gifted, did he ever believe he’d become West Ham and England skipper, win a World Cup and so on.
I was inside the old stadium on that glorious afternoon when the main man hoisted the Jules Rimet trophy over his head as I had been for the two previous years when the Hammers had won the FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup. Mooro’s hat-trick of trophies.
Great days, unforgettable days but it was years later – after his retirement from the game that my personal dream of meeting him and getting to know him came true.
A new Sunday newspaper – owned ironically by David Sullivan and backed financially by David Gold – came into being in a small North London Street.
I was freelancing for it – among others – and eventually became deputy sports editor at the same time as David Sullivan announced Mooro as our new sports editor.
My first encounter with the great man saw me – a 43 year old star struck journo – clutching the iconic photo of him on the shoulders of his World Cup winning team-mates and asking him to sign it. Embarrassing or what?
But Bob was charm personified, gave a small smile and said: “So you are gonna be the ghost writer for my column are you Hughie?”
I felt totally inadequate to look after the great man’s thoughts and commit them to print every week – he had been, after all my idol for so many years.
But Bob was a gent and as the weeks turned into months we would trek to matches together and write column after column together.
He never once lost patience…always remained composed and not once would he say a bad word about anybody.
I have always said of him that he was a greater man than he was a player…I can pay him no higher tribute.
One column we did sticks firmly in the mind when we were discussing his captaincy of England and what it meant to him He fixed me with that mesmerising stare and said: “England captain? What’s that all about?
“The other 10 are top players so we’re all captains. The England team should captain itself – I just carry the ball out!”
Bobby Moore was the most self-depreciating individual I’ve ever met and would have laughed at a statue of himself outside Wembley Stadium.
On the very subject of statues and Sir Matt Busby he once said: “Don’t need one of those – all the best memories are up here, pointing to his forehead.”
My last memory of Bob was of him in the Hawthorns press room where he was reporting the Baggies and Hammers for a London radio station.
He was drinking tea from a cracked cup, looking quite unwell but as ever putting a brave face on things claiming he was suffering a bout of winter flu.
I remember thinking: “This is how we treat our heroes in this country” and felt the lump growing in my throat.
Four months later Bob had passed away – the winter flu had been the return of the cancer he had battled all his life. Bob never made a fuss!
I salute the man every day of my life and on the 50th anniversary of hm leading us to our one and only international triumph I just want to say: “Thank you for the memories Bob on and off the field.”
You were an unforgettable man and I’ll see you later!
Great article Hugh. I envy you so much as Bobby is my hero and who brought me to West Ham. I used to be an Officer in the military and was on exercise in Italy when he died. Those around me said I turned completely white as soon as I heard the awful news; I was inconsolable and shed a lot of tears that night and am always emotional when Bobby is the topic of discussion. Greatest tackle ever made v Jairzinho in 1970, greatest Captain West Ham and England has ever seen and now my 15 year old son’s hero too. I once had the opportunity to meet Pele and I asked him about Bobby, his eyes welled up and he said my friend and the only defender I ever wanted to avoid playing against, he was that good!! My grandfather played for Barcelona after WW2 in 1946-1948 and was a good friend of Bobby Charlton. He was often in my grandfather’s living room when I was growing up and he saw me with a Hammers top on once and smiled as had No. 6 on the back and said that is a shirt no one could ever fill and as England Captain they would have followed him anywhere. Never will we see his like again and we are so much poorer for it.
WONDERFUL TRIBUTE Jman. He was the rarest of human beings. Never heard him swear, Just a truly great man. Loved a beer or two and was the most self depreciating guy I’ve ever met. Loved him. Just the best.
I contributed to the wonderful film that Matt Lorenzo oversaw the making of. There are no words that suffice when talking about Bobby, they just all seem inadequate.
Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore – I wager we shall never see another England captain like him. He was a class act, just a great human being who happened to have amazing footballing talent. Taken from us prematurely, under appreciated by the establishment, making it even more painful. Humble to the last, a gentleman and a fine human being, the memories are all we need.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Hugh. “I have always said of him that he was a greater man than he was a player…”…He wasn’t just probably the finest footballer, he was one of the finest men this country ever produced.
The finest role model for the human race whatever colour, creed or culture….
He didn’t preach, but LIVED by example….
If everyone on the planet emulated him, we would be one big wonderful family…enjoying each other’s differences…