Bang, bang] You're tackled

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The Independent Online
I ALWAYS had a soft spot for Bobby Moore, even though I never met him. (That makes it sound as though I have met most of the other major footballers, but I have never met them either.) When he was helping to win England's first and only World Cup in 1966, I was helping to give birth to my first child. Well, I didn't actually do much myself; I left all the actual playing and goal-scoring to my wife. But, like Bobby Moore, I captained, and I ran and ran. In my case, I ran to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, during the day, where mother and child lay, and back in the evening to the Albert, a pub in Notting Hill where they had a television on which to watch the World Cup. I could have gone home, I suppose, except that we didn't have a television.

That was the year that North Korea frightened everyone - I think they managed to beat teams such as Portugal - and that Argentina got a lot of stick for being 'animals', although I would like to place it on record that they were also capable of gentlemanly acts. In Parliament Square that summer I saw a wreath placed at the base of Canning's statue. Curious to know who would remember a statesman dead these 150 years, I had a look at the message. It said: 'The Argentine football team lays this here on behalf of a grateful nation . . .' Hands up all those who can remember what part Canning played in Latin American independence. Nobody? I thought not . . .

Sophie, that first child, came out of hospital in time for the World Cup final, and although she now claims not to remember this, she sat on my lap at the age of a week and watched England beat Germany, or rather cry her eyes out while England beat Germany. This was not in the Albert pub in Notting Hill, I hasten to add. Pubs were not so enlightened in those days. Nor, indeed, are they now. No, this was in my brother Stewart's house in Holland Park Avenue. Ah, memories.

That is not really why I remember Bobby Moore, though. I remember him for something quite different several years later, which I saw when I went to see West Ham play at Chelsea, on one of those rare occasions when I didn't go to my adopted London club (QPR) or my real home club, Wrexham.

I think it was the first and only time I went to Chelsea. If not, it was certainly the first and only time I saw a 4-4 draw between two top teams. That sort of scoring is silly. By the time both teams had scored two or three goals, they obviously felt it was getting a bit silly, too, and this was probably why Bobby Moore did what he did late in the game.

Just in his own half, he had the ball kicked to him by a Chelsea player and, as it came down to him out of the sky, in a moment's aberration he caught it in his arms. He then looked down at it, laughed, put it down for the Chelsea free kick and ran back to a new position, while the crowd roared with pleasure. I wish there were more spontaneous and illogical moments like that in modern football.

And as a final tip of the cap to Bobby Moore, I can record that a policeman once paid a sterling tribute to the footballer's style. The policeman's name was Trevor, and he worked for the British Rail Police at Euston Station, where, years ago, I was sent to spend a night in their presence by the editor of Punch, William Davis.

'We don't get much aggro at Euston, except for the football fans,' Trevor told me, as we sat in the police room with a sleeping police dog at his feet. 'Watch this.'

He leant over and said loudly: 'Chelsea]'. Immediately the dog leapt up and started barking frantically.

'Mark you, I don't go chasing after football fans these days,' said Trevor. 'Too old for that. I leave that to the younger coppers, who don't seem to mind running after villains till they drop. But when you get to my age, you learn a few things and one of them is how to tap a villain on the shoulder and say, 'Hey, you]' and so position yourself that he turns and runs into your arms. No effort, no pain.

'It's like the way Bobby Moore plays for West Ham these days, really. He can't catch a young man and tackle him any more. But he doesn't have to, because he knows where to be in the first place. Young man turns with the ball and - bang] Bobby Moore's standing in front of him. Yes, all policemen could learn from the way Bobby Moore plays for West Ham.'

That's not a bad tribute in its own way.