Thursday, October 9
Bobby Moore: The Man In Full
Matt Dickinson’s Bobby Moore: The Man In Full is a fine read. Though the main thing you feel after reading this book is what a lost opportunity the later Moore years were for West Ham. It started off tremendously with the 1964 FA Cup and 1965 Cup Winners Cup wins, but before the 1966 World Cup victory Moore was keen on a move to Spurs and only signed an emergency one-month contract on the eve of the World Cup. The year before he’d had cancer (covered up as a groin injury) and the England captain had a testicle removed. You have to admire the bravery and stoicism of the man.
When England won the World Cup, Moore discovered that there was no way West Ham would ever sell him. Ron Greenwood was a fantastic coach but a poor manager of men, and Moore, more insecure than his calm persona suggests, wanted someone to tell him he was a great player occasionally. He also responded well to having big name players around him and Dickinson suggests that West Ham’s stupid refusal to sign Gordon Banks because of Ron Greenwood’s principles and their lack of other star signings helped contribute to Moore’s disillusion.
Dickinson writes of West Ham’s reputation as a drinking club in the late 1960s with crates of lager in the treatment room. He reveals one new signing was told that as long as he could stand at the bar at the Black Lion he was fit enough to play for West Ham. Even Jimmy Greaves was shocked by the boozing at the club. By the time of the infamous 1971 Blackpool nightclub incident when Moore, Dear, Greaves and Clyde Best went clubbing on the eve of an FA Cup tie the drinking culture had become toxic. Moore played many great games for West Ham, but at times Greenwood felt he coasted, and with three World Cup winners the side hugely underachieved. The club needed a stronger manager than Greenwood to get the best from him.
Moore’s love of lager is fully explored and Dickinson details one session where Moore and pals downed 20 cans each. Mooro would try to sweat off his sessions the next morning, but he could certainly have prolonged his career without the boozing and you wonder if the alcohol contributed to his bowel cancer.
It’s a shame that when the end came Moore signed for Fulham after the West Ham board refused to deal with the brash Brian Clough. The Derby boss might have extracted the best from Moore during his final years.
Moore was a difficult man to get to know, but Dickinson reveals much about his personality through his compulsive neatness and his obsessive ordering of his shirts, coded by colour from light to dark. He describes how combating his lack of pace and aerial ability through positioning and intercepting the ball made Moore the great player he was. His other great asset was calmness on and off the pitch, as exemplified by the Bogata bracelet arrest and his reaction to it at the 1970 World Cup when he produced "that tackle by Moore".
Dickinson covers the way the game ignored Moore after his retirement and is not aftraid to mention rumours of unwise friends among the East End underworld. Moore’s ex-wife Tina thinks that like many people, some gangsters wanted to be associated with Bobby through being seen at the same venues, but that was at far as it went.
Dickinson does wonder why Moore chose to buy the Blind Beggar, scene of an infamous Kray Twins murder. The arson attack on the Woolston Hall country club that Moore invested in was because another director was thought to be a grass, claims Dickinson. Though he fails to discover why Moore appeared to have “his own personal arsonist” as his ill-advised pub ventures floundered.
Moore was a poor businessman and wouldn’t have been a good manager, even if he had found a bigger club than Oxford City or Southend, believes Dickinson, because the England captain disliked confrontation. Although he would have been a tremendous smartly-dressed diplomat for West Ham or the FA. Moore knew he was dying at the end and like everything else in his life, he greeted death with dignity and stoicism.
This is a riveting read and a vivid portrayal of a genius with some very human flaws.
Bobby Moore: The Man In Full is published by Yellow Jersey, price £20