By Jeff Powell For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 23:29 GMT, 21 December 2019 | Updated: 01:59 GMT, 22 December 2019
Martin Peters? ‘Ten years ahead of his time,’ said plain Alf Ramsey of his wraith from Upton Park. A pleasant description, deserved, original.
Even so, ‘unique for all time’ would have been more like it had Sir Alf waited until after he was knighted to reflect upon and fully evaluate the scorer of the other West Ham goal in England’s glory of ’66.
Ask football fans as young even as our grandsons who scored the hat-trick which delivered this country’s only World Cup before many of their fathers were born.
Martin Peters was always in the right place for West Ham, Spurs, Norwich and England
‘Geoff Hurst,’ they chorus across our cities and shires.
Ask who notched the other in that epic 4-2 victory over West Germany in extra-time and you are invariably greeted with silence and a scratching of heads.
Not that Peters minded. Not one bit. If his genius was to pass unremarked, then so be it.
England World Cup winning hero Martin Peters passed away at the age of 76 on Saturday
He was the flip side to garish commercial brands like Beckham. And never mind if he was the more cultured, unassuming to a fault. Modest in the shadow of Hurst’s achievement, unequalled as it still stands in World Cup finals. Shy, even.
Above all, a gentleman, on and off the pitch.
What made Peters special was that there was no player quite like him. Nor before him. Nor since.
Impossible to mark to the point of being virtually invisible. Yet always in the right place when he needed to be for England, West Ham, Spurs, Norwich and, briefly at the end, Sheffield United.
Peters was a decorated winger who was described by Sir Alf Ramsey as ahead of his time
Especially when the chance of a goal came from nowhere. He reacted while all around were still taking the mental picture.
England’s triumphant Hammers triumvirate is always recited as Moore, Hurst and Peters.
In the minds of the other two legends, he was their equal in the vital triangle schooled in that east London academy.
All three were always dressed impeccably. Aside from his playing kit and tracksuits, Peters was hardly ever seen without a blazer and tie.
The wide midfielder made over 800 club appearances and won 67 caps for England
Bobby Moore wore a suit. Hurst the checked jacket. All wore their hair trimmed. Their stance was upright. Their mutual understanding on the field of play was just as measured, as well as telepathic.
That club unit was England’s cornerstone, even though that final brought only the eighth caps for Hurst and Peters. Their advent had been smoothed by Moore, who was their and their country’s leader by example and command.
If less fuss was made of young Martin, it was partly by his own wish. Peters spoke as quietly as he ghosted about the pitch. Forever courteous, unfailingly correct, always asking after your family and your health. Faintly embarrassed by praise. Never bridling at criticism.
At just 23-years-old, Peters (L) was a national hero for his role in England’s World Cup triumph
He had no need to be noticed and often went unrecognised in the street. There were bonds with his fellow footballers but his satisfaction was with his family.
A smile was never far from his lips. Nor a compliment for others.
He was the antithesis of ego and as such a more perfect role model than the game’s preening celebrities.
And his passing this weekend came after three years suffering Alzheimers … in silence.
Martin Peters? Yes, unique.
Peters (second left) was a true gentleman and represented English football in fine fashion
Martin Peters was impossible to mark to the point of being virtually invisible
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