By Steve Stammers For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 22:34 GMT, 21 December 2019 | Updated: 01:59 GMT, 22 December 2019
A private person. A down-to-earth person. And as Sir Geoff Hurst put it: ‘A class act.’
Martin Peters passed away on Saturday at the age of 76 — and no one outside the members of his family will miss him more than Hurst. The pair came through the famed West Ham academy, became close friends and neighbours and shared the goals in the historic 4-2 World Cup win over West Germany in 1966.
‘I don’t think people realised what a superb player Martin was,’ said Sir Geoff. ‘He was so gifted, such an intelligent footballer. Martin was never one for headlines but if you look at his record for England, it was 20 goals in 67 matches, a tremendous ratio.’
Sir Geoff Hurst (centre) has paid tribute to friend and ex-England team-mate Martin Peters (L)
Yet Hurst revealed Sir Alf Ramsey was reluctant to pick him in the build-up to the World Cup.
‘Our manager at West Ham, Ron Greenwood, was on to Alf all the time about Martin. He nagged him, telling him what a good player he was. Alf wasn’t convinced. He thought he couldn’t head the ball. Couldn’t head the ball? He was one of the best at the club! In the games of head tennis at training, you wanted Martin in your team.
‘Then came a debate about what was his strongest foot. Right-footed was the general consensus. All I’d say to that is have a look at the cross he put in for me to head the winner in the quarter-final against Argentina. It was precise, hit at exactly the right pace. And it came from his left foot. Martin was just a gifted footballer, an all-round footballer. He could play anywhere — even in goal.
Peters and Hurst were on the score sheet as England beat West Germany 4-1 at Wembley
‘I knew him for some 60 years and he was one of my closest friends. Our houses were in the same street in Hornchurch and his garden was next to mine. Ask anyone who played with him and they will tell you how good he was.
‘Towards the end of his career he went to Norwich. He was in his 30s then, so not at his peak, but I saw one poll where he was voted Norwich’s best-ever player. That is how good he was.’
Hurst also revealed that Peters missed out on an impromptu celebration after that famous win back in 1966, which showed how much he valued his family life.
‘We had a banquet at the Royal Garden [Hotel] when the wives excluded. Afterwards, I arranged for us to go to Danny La Rue’s club to continue the celebrations. There was me, Alan Ball, Nobby Stiles and John Connelly. But Martin said no. He wanted that moment to be with his wife Kathy. That was Martin.’
Peters’ ability was recognised by all who played with him at West Ham. And it was evident with the players’ early version of the crossbar challenge.
Peters was tall and elegant, the thinking man’s midfielder, moulded by Ron Greenwood
‘We would put the ball on the D at the edge of the area and try to hit the bar of the goal, said Sir Geoff. ‘Martin was the best. Every time. Great player, great team-mate. And a great friend.’
Also aware of the talents Peters possessed was Harry Redknapp.
‘I first played with him in an Under-19 tournament in Holland,’ said Redknapp. ‘I was 15, he was 19. I could see then what a special player he was. And he was so down-to-earth. My memory of Martin would be how he was so approachable and how he was just one of the East End lads who were at West Ham at the time.
‘He was always there to help the younger players and he used to give me a lift to training. The closest I could get by bus to the training ground was The Fiddlers pub in Dagenham. It was a good mile or so walk to the training ground at Chadwell Heath. But Martin would look for me in the morning and pick me up — rain or shine — in his blue Ford Anglia.
‘He had this knack of ghosting into the area at the right time to get a goal. He was quiet — not loud or in anyway flash.
‘Yet he had been in the team that won the World Cup and he scored in the final.
‘Achievements really don’t come much greater than that, do they.’
Sir Geoff Hurst pays tribute to good friend and World Cup winning team-mate Martin Peters
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