Football: Sportsman who inspired a nation: Bobby Moore, hero of England: born 12 April 1941, died 24 February 1993

BOBBY MOORE fought his last terrible battle to the very end, with a courage and dignity which he hoped would inspire others, as his football had done for a generation and more. The game has been graced with few men of such exemplary character - on and off the field.

Desperately ill, he had summoned the strength last Wednesday for one final visit to Wembley, the scene of his greatest triumph, but he was clearly in some distress during England's World Cup tie against San Marino, when he bravely contrived to supply his usual expert analysis for a commercial radio station.

He had hoped to make what he knew would be a farewell visit to his beloved West Ham, for their match at home to Newcastle United last Sunday, but was too unwell to do so.

The Upton Park crowd, many of whom were too young to have seen him play, offered up the simplest of prayers for their stricken hero by repeatedly chanting his name.

Geoff Hurst was the Roy of the Rovers whose hat-trick won the World Cup in 1966, Martin Peters was the midfielder lauded for being '10 years ahead of his time', but 'Mooro' was The Man - a captain so cool and composed that he remembered to wipe his sweaty palms before receiving the Jules Rimet Trophy from the Queen.

If 1966 was his finest hour, it was the Mexico World Cup, four years on, which saw him at his peak. Utterly unflappable, with an uncanny positional sense which made him the master of the interception, he was then, by common consent, the best defender in the world.

Pele, unrivalled among all his opponents, described Moore, unequivocally, as the best he ever played against. This from a living legend whose career spanned 30 years.

It is common, in these circumstances, to skirt round character defects and eulogise lovely players as lovely men. Two or three of that 1966 team would be flattered by the latter half of such a description, but Moore, among all others, was the genuine article. In every sense.

Modest to a fault, he was always more interested in hearing the opinions of others than he was in expounding his own. Courteous, above all else, he was obliging his multitude of admirers with autographs and small talk right up to the end.

Strikingly unpretentious, he seemed not to notice when current England players, who should have been begging him for advice, rubbed shoulders in hotel or stadium without a word. Paul Gascoigne was a notable exception.

Amid all the tributes which flooded in like tears, one heartfelt reminiscence will linger long in the memory. It came from a leading football writer who was a cub reporter with a London sports agency when Moore was at the height of his powers, and fame.

Kindness personified, the captain of England took the fresh-faced innocent under his wing and regularly ferried him from West Ham's training ground, at Chadwell Heath, back into central London.

After several such journeys the Great Man turned to his down-at-heel passenger and said: 'We can't have you riding around with me unless you look the part.' The next day, when the teenager climbed into the Moore Jaguar, there on the back seat was a mohair suit which made the indentured apprentice the best-dressed hack in Fleet Street. It would not happen now. Football, like society in general, wears a meaner face these days.

Moore was symbolic of the Sixties, a happier time before hooliganism and greed took hold. Today's heroes would have sold our friend his suit - then charged him for an interview.

Moore's generosity of spirit made it all the more sad that one of the finest ambassadors the game has seen was unable to pass on his peerless expertise on the field when he turned to management.

After a brief spell in charge at Southend United ended unhappily, and any aspirations he had in that direction were to remain unfulfilled. It was one more thing he had in common with Hurst and Peters, Ball and Bobby Charlton. Managerial success has eluded the Lions of '66, Jack Charlton excepted.

Appropriately enough, it was Bobby Charlton - the only English player who matched Moore's celebrity - who paid the first of the many tributes last night.

His old friend had been a 'gentle man,' Charlton said. 'He was very kind, very courteous, and always did things with great dignity.'

Manchester United's favourite son added that he preferred to remember Moore as a rounded person, rather than a footballer.

'He was a very stylish player, a leader who made a fantastic contribution to the game, but as a man he always did things in a classy manner, with a lot of style.'

Obituary, page 29

East End tribute, page 33

(Photographs omitted)