Football: Hat-trick Hurst scores a knighthood

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The Independent Online
GEOFF HURST, England's World Cup final hat-trick hero, was yesterday "thrilled to bits" to be made a knight in the Queen's Birthday Honours and hoped that it would encourage the England squad in France.

Sir Geoff, whose three goals steered England to victory over West Germany in the 1966 final at Wembley, said: "I never expected this in my wildest dreams. I am just very honoured. I am delighted. It is a reflection of the team success that we had all those years ago."

Sir Geoff, 56, told of the emotional moment several weeks ago when the letter arrived from the Queen asking if he would accept the honour.

"My wife opened it and then just passed it to me. It was a very tearful moment in the Hurst household," the former West Ham striker, said. "When you are my age, this comes as quite a shock. I am very proud and so is my family. It has been very difficult to keep this secret and not tell even close friends."

Sir Geoff, who now lives in Surrey and is the successful director of a multi-million pound insurance company, was speaking at Wembley Stadium, next to the very goal where he scored the last of his three strikes against West Germany.

As he posed for photographers, some of the journalists spilled on to the grass. This prompted the warning from one of the Wembley staff - "they are on the pitch" - in an unexpected echo of the famous TV commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme that accompanied the final goal 32 years ago.

Sir Geoff hoped his knighthood would encourage the current England team. "The timing is impeccable and I just hope the lads can emulate that achievement of all those years ago," he said.

Sir Geoff added that his memory of the 1966 final and the moment he scored the final goal was still as clear as if it were yesterday. "It is not something I will ever get away from. It has had a huge impact on my life." He is the second member of the World Cup-winning team to be knighted - the first was Sir Bobby Charlton.

Wolstenholme, a former RAF bomber pilot, was more concerned that Hurst remembers an old Air Force custom. "I will remind him that the principle in the RAF when you received a gong was that you bought drinks all round," he said.

Also joining Hurst as sporting knights were racing's five-time champion trainer Michael Stoute and Michael Bonallack, the secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

Other honours included the athletes Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell (OBE), and England cricket captain Alec Stewart, the boxer Lennox Lewis and the golfer Colin Montgomerie (MBE).

Queen's Birthday Honours, Weekend Review, pages 8-9