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"If we’d lost to West Germany, I'd have hid in Alaska!" – Sir Geoff Hurst recalls the four games that changed his life

Sir Geoff Hurst
(Image credit: Getty)

Sir Geoff Hurst is not only one of the most iconic English football players to have graced the game, but also one of the most important men in World Cup history. His hat-trick against West Germany in 1966 remains the only treble scored in the competition's final, and it helped seal England's only title to date. 

A prolific scorer throughout his career, Hurst scored 242 goals for his boyhood club West Ham and also secured a clutch of medals with the London club, before going on to represent a handful of others, at home and abroad. 

Here, he tells FourFourTwo about the matches that changed his life...

This article first appeared Issue 304 of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now! (opens in new tab)

1. West Ham 3-2 Preston (1964 FA Cup final)

“I joined West Ham at 15 or 16, and the club had been in the Second Division for some time. We got up into the First Division in 1958, and then a few years later won the FA Cup. The last FA Cup final we had been in was 1923, when we lost to Bolton. In 1964, I scored the equaliser against Preston at Wembley. The ball hit the crossbar, bounced down and sneaked over the line – a prelude of events to happen in the future!”

2. West Ham 2-0 1860 Munich (1965 Cup Winners' Cup final)

“I have to choose winning a European trophy with West Ham – at Wembley again! You’ve got to put it into context: it was only the second time that an English club had won a European competition. Tottenham won the FA Cup in 1962, then the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963. Not long after coming up from the second tier, to win a European trophy for our club – two trophies in as many years, both at Wembley – was astonishing.”

3. England 4-2 West Germany (1966 World Cup final)

“When you talk about games that change your life, there’s no way my life would be the same now had I not played in that game, or had we not won. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be reminded of it for more than 50 years if we’d lost – I think I might have hid in Alaska! I remember what I was thinking in the moments before the hat-trick goal. The ball came to me from Bobby Moore, I glanced at the referee and he had the whistle in his mouth, but was waving play on. I just thought. ‘I’m going to whack this – if the ball goes into the crowd, by the time it comes back the game will be finished’. I always joke that I mishit it and it flew in!”

4. West Ham 0-1 Stoke (1971 League Cup semi-final)

“We won 2-1 at Stoke in the first leg and I’d scored a penalty. We went back to Upton Park, and were losing 1-0 with a few minutes to go when we got a penalty. If I scored it, we were in the final, but Gordon Banks tipped it over [left]. It ended 2-2 on aggregate, then we needed two replays and Stoke eventually beat us. Winning two trophies at West Ham and the big one with England overshadows it, but that was a huge personal disappointment. At least I didn’t hit the penalty into the crowd – it was saved by the greatest goalkeeper I’ve seen.”

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Chris joined FourFourTwo in 2015 and has reported from 20 countries, in places as varied as Jerusalem and the Arctic Circle. He's interviewed Pele, Zlatan and Santa Claus (it's a long story), as well as covering Euro 2020 and the Clasico. He previously spent 10 years as a newspaper journalist, and completed the 92 in 2017.