FOR ANY kid growing up in the East End during the 1960s, Bobby Moore was a role model of such blinding excellence that no matter how cross-eyed or clumsy, there was the hope that somehow, whether playing on the left side of defence in a playground kickabout or adopting Vitalis (the hair lotion he endorsed), you just might be touched by the great man's grace, writes Dick Hobbs (further to the obituary by Ken Jones, 25 February).
He was the first glamorous footballer, up there with the pop stars, actors, hairdressers and other working-class heroes, but 'Mooro' always seemed like one of us. He made the cliche of the football ground as cathedral make sense. When I first saw him play for the reserves I was carried over the turnstile by an indulgent uncle, and then throughout the game instructed to watch 'the young blond boy'. And we all watched him. When he captained a winning West Ham team at Wembley in 1964 (the right-winger ran a local butcher's shop) and again in 1965, it really felt that something special was occurring in E13.
By the time 1966 came around we all agreed with Alf Garnett that it was West Ham and not England that had won the World Cup, and the kid down the road dressed his labrador in a West Ham shirt with an embroidered No 6 on the back and wheeled him round the streets in a pram.
If a local school or park player on making a tackle strode forward, chest out, looked up and attempted a 40-yard diagonal pass inside the full-back, there was no doubt who he was trying to imitate. But how could Bobby Moore play at that level with such an upright stance? How did he cope with playing in successive post-1965 West Ham teams that were as erratic as dockwork? And why didn't he chin Rattin, the Uruguayan captain? However, we did know his wife's name, the car he drove, and the whereabouts of the West Ham drinking school.
We watched him play in goal against Stoke in the 1972 League Cup semi-final and save a penalty, and watched his 1970 testimonial game against Celtic. And we watched on television when he led the last great England side at the Mexico World Cup.
For some reason, we have forgotten that mistake against Poland that only northerners choose to remember, and when he joined Fulham in 1974 it meant that the 1960s were over, the docks were shut and nothing really belonged to us any more. So we all moved to Essex.
In the mid-1970s we visited his pub, 'Mooros', but he wasn't there. A friend of mine once walked up to Bobby Moore and asked him for his tie and he gave it to him. He was the best defender in the world, captain of England, the idol of millions and he gave my friend his tie. It was pure silk.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies