He’s the only man to have scored a hat trick in a World Cup final – and for England too! That was over half a century ago – but it’s not all over for Sir Geoff Hurst

Words Adrian Day

When I was growing up, there was one footballer that every kid wanted to be. Every kickabout was stuffed full of Geoff Hurst wannabes. He had done something unbelievable. He had won the (football) World Cup. More unbelievable still, he had done it for England.

The football legend has had to talk about those 120 minutes for the last 50 odd years but that hasn’t diminished his love of the game and he speaks like the 24-year old he was back in 1966.

Today, we are talking about his new goal – to launch his ‘Spirit of 66’ range of gin and whisky, with a proportion of the proceeds supporting Alzheimer and dementia charities.

“I’m keen on supporting them because I’ve been heavily involved the past few years with dementia and the Alzheimer’s Society as some of my World Cup colleagues have passed away with it and, more recently, Bobby Charlton has been diagnosed with it,” he says.

 

Geoff says the Spirit of 66 name is apt. “There hasn’t been anything like that since, and the word spirit – in terms of the spirit of the team – that was instrumental in its success.”

“The camaraderie and spirit of the individual players was essential. It wasn’t just about the quality of the footballers – but strong characters with great spirit and determination. That was essential to our success.” A good message for these times perhaps?

“Yes, we’ve all got to work together and get through this,” he agrees.

The two spirits look set to be real collectors’ items as just 1,966 bottles of each have been produced, with each label being personally signed by him. Geoff says: “It’s the kind of whisky that can be stored and can be an investment. And that’s something that’s interesting for whisky collectors.”

The signing of around 4,000 labels was a bit of a task and led to other considerations: “I’ve got to look reasonably well – there’s that bloody picture of me scoring that winning goal on the front of those bottles so they are going to be hugely disappointed if they see me and say, ‘good God, he’s cracked up’,” he laughs.

“The labels were all on a roll so my wife was holding the roll and as I signed them, I undid the roll and they spilled all across my living room.”

Collectable they might well be. As Geoff says about England’s World Cup win: “There’s not a bigger story in English sport. It’s easily the biggest event television wise – still today, it’s beaten all the royal weddings. “I think over 30 million watched it in ’66 and that’s incredible when you consider that in those medieval times a lot of people didn’t have televisions.

“The audience is still the biggest, with a great percentage of the general public not having TVs then. People in the high street would be looking through Radio Rentals – the company that sold TVs – standing on the pavement watching it.”

Those were certainly different times and footballers were less cosseted than today’s stars but Geoff has fond memories of Mayfair from back in the day.

“I’D BEEN TO DANNY LA RUE’S CLUB IN HANOVER SQUARE ABOUT SIX MONTHS EARLIER – IT STUCK IN MY MIND”

“I think the biggest memory – we were staying at the Royal Garden Hotel after winning and there was a banquet with the four semi-finalists – all the dignitaries and officials, referees, linesmen, FA guys and all that stuff and, of course, our team – but our wives, who we’d hardly seen for five or six weeks, were not invited to the banquet. They were in a little room somewhere else in the hotel. It’s remarkable when you think about that.

“So I decided we’ve got a do something. I’d always have a drink after the game on Saturday night in London – take the wife out and have a couple of drinks and a nice meal.”

“I’d been to Danny La Rue’s club in Hanover Square about six months earlier – it stuck in my mind. It was quite a nice club and Ronnie Corbett used to do a turn there – God rest him. And there’s me stupidly thinking – ringing at such late notice we wouldn’t get in! I mean, who  wouldn’t want five or six World Cup-winning players and there’s me thinking we might not get in.”

Anyway, I booked it and we went straight from this boring banquet – me, John Connolly, Nobby Styles and Alan Ball. I’ve got a great picture of that. We are sitting down there at the club with our wives – that was brilliant.”

The ‘Spirit of 66’ London Dry Gin, £59.99 and the ‘Spirit of 66’ Single Malt Whisky, £99.99, can be purchased online via spiritof1966.co.uk

Although we are here to talk about whisky, you can’t have a chat with a football legend without getting their view on a few key things. So I ask what he thinks his best goal was. “It’s not just the quality of the goal but the importance of the game you are playing in so I’ll pick two in the World Cup,” he says.

“Probably the best goal would be my first goal in the final. We were 1-0 down and getting back into the game was very important. That goal was created on the West Ham training ground between Bobby Moore and myself. We had a great coach in Ron Greenwood who always said, ‘if you have a free kick – if something’s on just take it. Don’t wait to set it  up’. It was such an important goal.

“Arguably, the best goal in terms of people remembering it was the final goal, which is such an iconic picture. It was unbelievable. I mean who captured that? It’s absolutely amazing. Because you’ve got the score in the background. It’s the last kick of the game going into the net – you’ve got the ball only a couple of yards from my foot, I’m off the ground. That is why it’s such an iconic picture and such a great thing to have on the front of the gin and the whisky.”

So who does he rate as the best striker in the game at the moment? “I’d say Aguero. I think people don’t realise how good he has been. Over the past few years, I’d pick him definitely.”

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the player Geoff believes is the best he has seen in his long experience of the game is Pele. “I’ve played against him and I’d always pick him as my best player,” he says. “There have been some great ones – Maradona more recently, of course. He was fantastic but, if I had to pick one, I’d always pick Pele.”

Find out more about the ‘Spirit of 66’ London Dry Gin online via: spiritof1966.co.uk

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