An email conversation with Geoff Hurst: 'The World Cup final hat-trick has transformed my whole life'

What England must do to improve in Germany; How Sir Alf Ramsey would have seen 'family' time; Disputed goal in '66 triumph was a metre over line; England can still win a very open World Cup
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The Independent Football

How impressed have you been with England's first two performances in the World Cup? Overall, the most important thing to take from both games is that we have qualified. We're also in a good position to win the group and avoid Germany. There aren't too many pluses to take from both games, though. We need to look at our tempo and the way we control the game. We weren't clever enough; we didn't use the ball, and were too reliant on the long pass. The two biggest pluses have been the introduction of Aaron Lennon against Trinidad & Tobago and the return of Wayne Rooney. Lennon looked sharp and scared the defenders.

Is it better to start a tournament in convincing fashion or build a head of steam? It's always better to start well and thus avoid the bigger teams in the second phases. Obviously, the nation expects results and this is what the players want to deliver.

Should Sven be playing people in positions they are unfamiliar with, such as Joe Cole up front or Jamie Carragher in midfield? My very strong view about this is that players should play in the positions they play for their clubs. It's such a big step up from club to international level and players don't need the added strain of being out of position. Players should be comfortable with their position. Alf Ramsey was a keen advocator of this: he told me to do the same things for my country as I did for my club.

Was the heat a valid excuse for England's inability to keep the ball against Paraguay? No, the fact that they were leading the game, they should have kept the ball and been a lot smarter with the weather. We were too reliant on the long ball. In that heat we should have kept the passing short and used the ball more intelligently. Let's remember, as well, it was never going to be snowing in Germany. We should have been prepared.

Should England fans be worried about Michael Owen's form? After two games, yes. After the first game I thought he just needed more games but after the second game he looks a bit out of sorts and low on confidence.

Would you have included Theo Walcott, Jermain Defoe or someone else in England's squad and why? One player that was unlucky not to make it was Marcus Bent. After scoring 18 goals, he should have been a consideration. There was an element of risk with some players - Rooney, Owen, Lennon, Walcott. As a result I would have picked an established player such as Defoe, who has played on the international stage. Now that Sven has picked Theo, he needs to give him some action. I would look to introduce Walcott in the Sweden game, subject to the state of the game. He needs 30 minutes.

Who was the joker of the camp in the England World Cup-winning side of '66 and what was the best prank they played? No one stood out. There was lots of good banter between the lads. All of the lads were capable of giving each other a bit of stick. There were lots of memorable pranks but they'll stay with the lads and the four walls of the dressing-room!

Would Ramsey have allowed you two days to stroll around town with your family during the '66 tournament? Alf didn't understand the word "family"! We wouldn't have been allowed families to stay with us. We saw our wives once at the quarter-finals stage, they were allowed to come to the hotel and we were given an hour to catch up with them. I'm not a strong believer in having wives in the players' camp. As George Cohen famously said: "When you go into the office, do you take your wife with you?"

How much and in what ways did the resultant fame of winning the World Cup affect your personal life? A great deal. Scoring a hat-trick in the World Cup final has completely transformed my life. Hundreds of players have played for England over the years but scoring a hat-trick that day has transformed everything in my life. Everything that has happened to me is as a result of that day. The last 15 years has illustrated that.

Are today's players more prepared for the media spotlight than in your day? Yes, much more. There is a much more intensive focus on football and the players. Today's players are constantly in the spotlight, both in the front and back of papers.

Is it true you were just happy to smack the ball anywhere when you scored the fourth goal in the '66 World Cup final so the Germans would have to go and get it and it would waste time? Yes, perfectly true. All I was thinking was to get the ball out and end the game.

Can you do The Crouch? No.

I imagine you've been asked this before, but did it cross the line? Yes, and as I'm still telling the Germans today, it was at least one metre over the line!

People have said that Peter Crouch is the Geoff Hurst of 2006. Are there similarities between his role this year and yours in '66? None whatsoever. Our styles are very different. Our introductions to the team have been completely different as well, as my first game for England was in the quarter-finals.

If you invited three people, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would they be and why? The first two would be Alf Ramsey and the late Sir Bobby Moore, who were both huge influences on my life from a professional point of view. Alf picked me when perhaps other England managers may not have picked a Geoff Hurst. Sir Bobby was a great pleasure to play alongside for 15 years for both West Ham and England. The third would be Elvis: my wife is a huge fan of Elvis and I'd have loved to have shared a conversation with him and recounted the story to her. The first record I bought for my wife was "GI Blues".

Was Jimmy Greaves as good as Rooney? At the same age of playing, I would say that Greaves was a lot more experienced. His record for Chelsea was unprecedented. Before the World Cup he had been playing for 10 years at the highest level. If Rooney has a career that matches Greaves, it will be great to talk about them in the same breath in years to come.

In your heart of hearts would you like to see another player score a World Cup final hat-trick? No. That hat-trick and the win itself have transformed my life.

What's on your iPod? What's an iPod?

In a match between this England team and the '66 one, who would win? I think it would be a draw: you have to remember that most of my team is now about 70 years of age.

Could you have been a professional cricketer, if you had pursued your opportunity with Essex, where you made one first-class appearance, if it wasn't for the football? Yes, my big failing, looking back, was that I was trying to combine both a cricket and football career at the same time. At that time it was the end of an era when sportsmen could get away with doing both sports professionally.

What is your biggest regret in football? I have very few regrets about football and my life. My personality, so my wife tells me, is that I'm focused on today and tomorrow and that's it. However, one of the very few things that annoyed me was allowing West Ham to ask a fee of £80,000 for me after I'd been at the club for 15 years after paying a signing-on fee of just £20.

Will England go all the way this year and why - and if not, who do you tip? Having seen everyone in action I still hold a firm belief that this is an open competition and England are one of half a dozen nations that have the capability of winning it.

Which individuals have stood out for you so far? Of the performances I've seen, I would say Lennon and Arsenal's new signing, Tomas Rosicky, have been the most noticeable. It looks like [the Arsenal manager] Arsène Wenger has done it again in signing the Czech star. He looks to be a bit of a bargain at £8m.

On holiday are you an adrenaline junkie, culture vulture or beach bum? I have the great ability to do a bit of everything, depending how I feel in the morning.

Have you ever met the '66 linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, since? If so, how did the conversation go? No, never. Although he was the referee when West Ham played Olympiakos on our way to winning the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1965. I had the great pleasure to attend the unveiling of a magnificent statue outside the main station in Azerbaijan when England played a recent World Cup qualifier. It was the very least I could do after my '66 final!

What are you reading? I'm reading my own book. It's a historical account of England winning the World Cup, World Champions.

Sir Geoff Hurst MBE is McDonald's director of football. McDonald's is an official partner of the Fifa World Cup finals.

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