Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Geoff Hurst, England footballer

'I was good at subjects with definite answers like reading and spelling'
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The Independent Online

Sir Geoff Hurst MBE, 64, is the only player to score a World Cup Final hat-trick, in the 1966 match remembered for his disputed goal and also the creation of the phrase, "they think it's all over... it is now." He played for West Ham, Stoke City and West Bromwich and was the manager of Chelsea. He is McDonald's Director of Football and has spearheaded their grassroots programme which has created 10,000 qualified community football coaches. His autobiography 1966 and All That is out now in paperback and World Champions: Relive the Glorious Summer of 1966 will be published next month.

The walk would not be contemplated today: at six years old, it was my first day at a new school in a new town and it was foggy and I walked on my own - 15 or 20 minutes. There weren't the problems of traffic or of being nabbed. Also, you become much more aware of dangers when you're a grandfather! (I played at Wembley at the age of 22 and it was almost second nature; you didn't realise the possibility of failure but the older players were much more aware.)

We had moved to Chelmsford from Manchester and I went to King's Road Primary. As Chelmsford is 30 miles from London, I was very much looked on as a country boy - a "swede-basher" - when I went later to West Ham, and was often the victim of the sort of horseplay that is so common among footballers.

I was in the top three in a class of 40 for most of my years at King's Road; maths was my best subject. I was good at subjects that had definite answers like reading and spelling, but not at arty subjects like painting. My education was important and I didn't need motivation to study from my parents. I believe in the balance between sport and education. Anything that keeps children exercising, rather than doing things you know are not quite so good in their communities! I am appalled that sport has been neglected and playing fields are being sold off.

Football was a big part of my life from nine or 10 and I was in the school team. I was involved in all sports and was victor ludorum for one year. I did athletics to keep fit for football and cricket. I've still got photos of my teams. There's a camaraderie in a team that you can't get in a classroom studying maths.

I took the 11-plus. Disappointingly, I was on the borderline and had to take an oral examination and failed that. Some of the people who ended up in the grammar school were nowhere near as good as me. One was a real dope. But Rainsford Secondary Modern was a good school. They had just introduced O-levels into secondary moderns and I took four: English, maths, technical drawing and science. I was not a genius but I was not bad. Judith, my wife, went to the same secondary school and we used to meet at the local youth centre. She thought I was a bighead because I was good at sport and in all the school's teams.

I wasn't an international schoolboy player. I played a couple of games for Chelmsford and one for the county - and I wasn't the star player. I didn't play for the South-East England schoolboys or England under-15s, where the clubs' scouts would be watching. I was nowhere near that. I wasn't the best player in my school team, even.

When I was 15-and-a-half, around the school-leaving age, a friend of my father's wrote letters about me to Arsenal and West Ham. West Ham replied more quickly, and so my first job interview was there; but it could easily have been for something completely different, like the local engineering firm.

Being a country boy, I lost my way on the Tube and missed the first trial at West Ham. At my second trial, I passed back to our goalkeeper but it was too short, forcing him to scramble from his line just as one of the opposing forwards tried to intercept the ball. The goalkeeper broke a thumb in the collision.

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