The Football League has produced some world class players that have gone on to play for their country. Despite winning the World Cup in 1966 England had failed to win any other major tournament. It has often driven their supporters to despair seeing the national side fail to achieve success on the global scale.
Yet the reality is that as football becomes increasingly popular around the world England’s chance of winning a major tournament becomes slimmer and slimmer. The country may have the best league in the world, but with a population of around 60 million people there are far bigger countries that are picking from a larger pool of players. The man who captained the England side to its only major tournament win was Bobby Moore. As a player he was regarded as one of the best centre backs in World football. He made 108 appearances for the England side captaining the both at the World Cup Finals in 1966 and at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.
During his club career he made the majority of his performances for West Ham having advanced through their youth set up. He later went on to play for Fulham after leaving West Ham having played 544 times for them over 16 seasons, and when he eventually retired he had made 716 appearances in club football. There were two other West Ham players in the World Cup triumph, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. Hurst will always be remembered for the hat trick he scored against West Germany in the 4-2 win. His final cup clinching goal is forever immortalized with the accompanying commentary from commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme:
“Some people are on the pitch they think it’s all over … it is now”
He spoke the final words as Hurst smashed the ball into the roof of the net. When the competition had started Hurst was not in the team and only got his chance in the quarter final game against Argentina, after an injury to Jimmy Greaves had ruled him out of contention for selection.
In his career he scored 24 goals in 49 appearances for the national team. While playing for West Ham he played 411 games scoring 180 goals, before being sold to Stoke City for 80,000 pounds where he made another 108 appearances scoring 30 goals. Another famous Stoke player to emerge from the potteries was Sir Stanley Matthews. Born in Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent in 1915, Matthews started and finished his career with his hometown club. In between he joined Black pool and in the 1953 cup final against Bolton he swung the game Blackpool’s way with his amazing wing play.
Blackpool came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3, and Stan Morteson scored a hat trick for Blackpool. But the final was won by Matthews’ magic and it has become known as the Matthews final. During his career he lost six years as a result of being in the air force during the Second World War.
In 1961 he rejoined Stoke and played his last game for them at the age of 50. He retired at the end of the 1965 season having made 697 club appearances scoring 71 goals and he also won 54 England caps scoring 11 goals, and these figures would have been a lot higher if he hadn’t lost those 6 seasons between the ages of 24 and 30.
Another world famous player who played for “the potters” was the goal keeper Gordon Banks. Gordon Banks was playing for Leicester City when he was England’s goalkeeper in the 1966 world cup final. By the time he appeared in the 1970 tournament he had signed for Stoke. He was regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world. In the 1970 tournament he made a save against Brazil’s Pele that was not only regarded as the best ever save, but in 2002 it was also voted as number 41 in the UKs 100 greatest sporting moments.
In all he made 558 club appearances plus winning 73 England caps. In 1972 he lost an eye in a car accident but this did not stop him from playing for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League.