With numerous sportsmen and women recently gaining a knighthood here, an MBE there, what constitutes an award by the British Empire? Nothing in my opinion, but it must be gutting for those for whom it does mean something to be overlooked in favour of others. And the prime example is England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad.
Geoff Hurst is rightly a legend of the English game for THAT game alone (hat-trick in the 4-2 win against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final for those who don’t like football, but have stumbled upon this article and have continued reading it out of zombiedom), but he is also the second highest goal scorer in League Cup history with 42 goals in 60 games (Ian Rush holds the record with 49 in 84). Aside from Bobby Charlton, he is the only member of that prestigious side to have been anointed a Sir.
Let’s not kid ourselves – Hurst was awarded a knighthood for his part in England’s 1966 triumph, not his League Cup exploits, although to be fair, it may have contributed a small percentage towards the decision making process – backup if you will. But what about the rest of England’s squad? Charlton was made a knight in 1994, but he’s an exception for the career he had and has had since.
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Charlton is still the England national side’s top scorer (although not for long with Wayne Rooney about), including scoring the two decisive goals in the 1966 semi-final against one of the favourites, Portugal. He was part of Manchester United’s trophy winning machine of the mid-1950s and their resurrection in the 1960s after losing most of their team in the Munich disaster, including becoming the first English team to win the European Cup; then there’s the charity work. It is possible that he would have been knighted without that World Cup win.
In that tournament, Charlton played in every match. Hurst didn’t. He played three games starting with the quarter-final against Argentina where he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win, then set up England’s second goal of the 2-1 semi-final win over Portugal.
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And then, of course, scored three in the final. Massive contribution, sure, but that sturdy defence of Ray Wilson, George Cohen, Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton that played every game and only conceded three goals during the whole tournament deserve just as much credit.
So how about the men that played every game like Gordon Banks, Wilson, Cohen, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Moore and Roger Hunt plus others such as Martin Peters and Alan Ball who made stellar contributions?
If 75-80 per cent of the knighthood merits are to do with that World Cup final then either all of them should be awarded or none of them. The committee that decides these things cannot have it both ways. Or I suppose they can. And already have.