World Cup-winning England footballer

Born: November 8, 1943;

Died: 21 December, 2019.

MARTIN Peters, who has died aged 76 following a long battle against dementia, will forever be remembered as one of the 11 Englishmen who lifted football’s World Cup, at Wembley, in 1966. Among those immortals in red shirts, Peters is also the answer to a quiz question – which player got the other England goal alongside hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst?

Born in Plaistow, the son of a Thames lighterman, Martin Stanford Peters was a classic West Ham United recruit once his potential had been recognised with the Dagenham & District schools side. He went to the Boleyn Ground as an apprentice in 1959 and signed professional forms in 1960.

He made his West Ham debut against Cardiff City on Good Friday, 1962, but he struggled to establish himself and was not picked for the FA Cup-winning side in 1964. However, the following season, when the Hammers returned to Wembley to beat Munich 1860 in the European Cup-Winners Cup final, Peters was a key player.

His timing was spot-on. At the end of the 1966 season, having already played for the Under-23 team, he made his England debut against Yugoslavia in a friendly, and his first England goal, against Finland in his second international, helped make him “the bolter” who had come out of left-field to be one of the 22 England players named for the World Cup final tournament.

He sat out the dire 0-0 opening game against Uruguay, a performance which persuaded Alf Ramsey to ditch wingers and go with what was initially a somewhat derided “wingless wonders” formation. Peters, wearing the number 16 shirt, was a key component in the new look, being asked to make runs up the left from box to box. It was a role he was seemingly designed for; suddenly, England clicked and Peters’s star was in the ascendancy, particularly after his cross was headed home for the only goal of the controversial quarter-final win over Argentina by his club-mate, Geoff Hurst.

Peters, rather than Hurst, might have been the hero of the final against West Germany. The Germans scored first and Hurst equalised, before Peters scored to put England in front – only to see his goal nullified by the Germans’ controversial late equaliser.

Hurst, however, earned his knighthood by being credited with two goals in extra time – although you will never convince a Scot, or indeed a German, that the first of these should have counted. The England team were now immortals, with Peters having only won a grand total of eight caps.

He would go on to add a further 59, eventually making 67 appearances for his country, the last against Scotland in 1974. He scored 20 international goals and had the honour of leading his country.

After 1966, Peters began to feel he was playing third string to his fellow World Cup winners, Hurst and skipper Bobby Moore. Sir Alf Ramsey said Peters was “ten years ahead of his time,” a testimonial which did not go down well with some football writers.

He needed a new challenge, which came in 1970 when he became English football’s first £200,000 player, joining Tottenham Hotspur for £150,000 plus the £50,000-rated Jimmy Greaves. His time with Spurs was productive, as he supplied the crosses for many goals for Alan Gilzean and Martin Chivers, and he also won two League Cup winner’s medals, a UEFA Cup winner’s medal and a runners-up medal in the same competition. In March 1975, aged 31, he joined former West Ham team-mate John Bond, who was then managing Norwich City, for a fee of £40,000.

He was twice the Canaries’ Player of the Year and in over 200 appearances, he achieved legendary status with the club, where he was eventually granted a testimonial. He was one of the inaugural inductees into the club’s Hall of Fame and was voted their greatest-ever player. Needless to say, he is also in the West Ham and Tottenham Halls of Fame.

Peters’s active Football League career ended with an unhappy time as player-coach, then manager of a Sheffield United side on an unstoppable slide into the fourth tier of English football. His senior career, which ended in 1981, saw him play just shy of 900 games, scoring 220 goals and over the course of it, occupy all 11 jerseys.

He had a short spell with Gorleston, playing as a sweeper in the Eastern Counties League before leaving football to work in the motor trade, then in insurance, for a time reuniting in this field with Hurst.

He was appointed in a non-executive role as supporters’ liaison director by Tottenham, and later became a well-loved hospitality host in the executive areas at both Tottenham and West Ham, before, in 2016, it was revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Peters, the quiet man of England’s greatest team, passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday morning, 21 December. He is survived by wife Kathleen, daughter Leeann and son Grant.

That July afternoon in 1966 might have earned Peters and the others their MBEs, and better, but it should not be the only thing for which this quiet, unassuming but highly effective midfielder is remembered. Like his distinguished predecessor at Tottenham, the Scot John White, he could find space where none existed, and then deliver the killer ball. Martin Peters was a great player.