Hurst strikes vexed note in oddball show

Mike Rowbottom finds the 1966 World Cup roadshow having some trouble attracting a crowd
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The Independent Online
Last night's entertainment at the Leamington Royal Spa Centre was billed as an "Evening With Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters". As an alternative working title, Waiting for Wolfgang might have been more appropriate.

The shadowy figure from Dusseldorf who had promised to arrive bearing Hurst's hat-trick ball from the 1966 World Cup final remained in the shadows as the nostalgic roadshow, marking the 30th anniversary of England's Wembley win, pleasantly diverted an audience that narrowly outnumbered the media.

Hurst had endured a trying weekend of tabloid scuffling after signing a deal with the Daily Mirror which saw him presented with what his 1966 opponent, Helmut Haller, maintained was the real match ball.

He seemed frankly relieved that the man who had phoned his agent earlier in the week had not turned up with the promised item. Or, indeed, that the three or four others rumoured to be planning an appearance with their versions of the holy grail had not shown either.

"It would be fair to say that it has not ruined my evening,'' he said afterwards. He was, though, a little downcast at the size of the audience. If Wolfgang was a publicity stunt, he failed.

As the press loitered in the foyer, a total of 36 spectators, huddled together at the front of the auditorium, sat obediently for the opening slide show and commentary.

Hurst arrived without the ball which had been handed over to him by Haller on Friday. Indeed, he did not know where it was, so the fond theories about forensic investigation in the event of another ball turning up on the night went out of the window.

But when asked whether he believed the Haller ball was the genuine article, he replied, several times: "As far as I can ascertain."

Once this vexed subject had been dealt with again during the concluding question and answer session - ''I was only asked to pose with the ball for publicity although I'm told it will eventually be given to me'' - Hurst, who had endured a frantic weekend as the Daily Mirror sought to get the most out of their exclusive deal with him, turned his thoughts back 30 years.

Recalling his famous, concluding goal in the final he said that such was the perfection of Bobby Moore's pass to him that he had enough time to observe his captain preparing himself to receive the cup from the Queen. ''He was already tugging at his collar and adjusting his tie-ups,'' Hurst said.

It was, he said a shout from Alan Ball which distracted the German defenders in front of him and decided him to shoot rather than pass. ''I thought, 'sod you, Bally, I'm on a hat-trick.'"

The England squad in 1966, he added had been able to call upon five world- class players in Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Moore.

One orange ball did make an appearance - brought on stage by the evening's compere. ''That's not it,'' Hurst said with a smile. "Too shiny.''