Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Unsung Heroes - Martin Peters

Think 1966, think the World Cup, think England, Wembley, Germany 4-2, Hurst, Moore, Charlton, Nobby dancing.

An unsung hero for me though, Martin Peters, only twenty two, the Final only his eighth cap, he was called up just before the World Cup and was hailed by Sir Alf Ramsey as a player "ten years ahead of his time".

Ten years ahead? Maybe more, we never saw another midfielder like him for England again arguably until Bryan Robson, it's a cliche but for England's "wingless wonders" he covered every inch of grass - he had to - with everything coming through the middle. Not that that mattered, for his domestic club West Ham he had played (at one time or another) in every outfield position.

For England he scored a goal every three games and his career spanned eight years, playing for only four clubs in total. At West Ham he was "The Ghost" timing his runs into the box to perfection and appearing as if from nowhere. We all know the claim that "West Ham won the World Cup" and it's true (to a certain extent) with Peters playing no small part, it was his goal from a half volley that put the hosts ahead to settle the nerves. The understanding at domestic level between Hurst, Peters & Moore transferred well from club to country and also helped to provide some much needed backbone.

His move from West Ham (where he had graduated through the Academy) to local neighbours Tottenham Hotspur for a then record transfer fee probably didn't help relations with one of their fiercest rivals, in fact I know of at least one Hammers fan who held it against Spurs for the rest of his life saying that "Spurs had got a World Cup winner, while they had ended up with an alcoholic has been" - a bit harsh perhaps (we all know he liked a tipple) but Jimmy Greaves who did move the other way as part of the deal still had a few goals left in him.....

Peters who had already won a European Trophy (with West Ham) and a World Cup had continued success at Spurs. His pace, stamina, distribution and discipline that had marked him out as one for the future was still there even though the game had got quicker and players more skillful, he captained both club & country finding a new band of admirers amongst the Tottenham faithful.

By the time he hit thirty, inevitability perhaps for one starting out and hitting such heights so young his time at the highest level began to slip away, he still played another five years after to moving to Norwich City helping them to promotion and consolidating their place in the then First Division.
But this was no 'has been' seeing out his days, in fact he was voting Player of the Season twice @ Carrow Road and was also inducted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame.

His influence can still be seen today, @ West Ham Frank Lampard Jr would have been no stranger to tales of this magnificent box to box midfielder years ahead of his time and it's quite something that Martin Peters is loved by so many fans from two rival London clubs and is regularly welcomed back with open arms - something which can't be said by many others.......

This is the first of which I hope will be a series, what's your view? Who would be your unsung hero in the world of football? Feel free to comment and keep up to date with us on Facebook & Twitter!

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