By David Owen
December 22 – Martin Peters, who scored England’s second goal in the 4-2 victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, has died at the age of 76.
Essex-born, Peters was one of three West Ham United players, alongside hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst and the late captain Bobby Moore, in the side that lifted the World Cup on that unforgettable day at Wembley stadium, for what is still the only time in England’s history.
Unusually tall for a midfield player in that era, Peters was the penultimate piece slotted in to manager Alf Ramsey’s world championship-winning jigsaw during the group stages. Coming into the team for the 2-0 win over Mexico, he won only his fourth England cap, immediately becoming an integral part of a system that largely dispensed with traditional wide players and was known as the ‘wing-less wonders’.
Peters had a thoroughly modern conception of space on the field, working hard, but frequently arriving late – and unmarked – in dangerous areas. This and his calmness under pressure accounted for his impressive goal-scoring record.
All told, he notched 20 for England in 67 appearances in an international career that stretched until 1974, as well as 174 in upwards of 700 appearances for his various clubs.
His club career was spent mainly with the London rivals West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur, whom he joined in 1970 in a then record £200,000 deal, with another member of the World Cup-winning squad, Jimmy Greaves, moving in the opposite direction.
But he also enjoyed five good years in East Anglia with Norwich City.
He was in the Spurs team that featured in Hunter Davies’s classic account of the trophy-winning 1971-72 season, The Glory Game.
Peters, the author wrote, “is never happier than when he’s sitting stripped and ready, all tense, with half an hour to go to kick-off”.
As Davies later recalled, Peters was the only one of the then Spurs first-team pool who “actively contemplated” being a manager.
“After training,” the writer went on, “most players, then and now, talk about cars, girls, clothes, girls, holidays, money, music, girls. Martin would watch the apprentices and point out things I’d missed, predict who would make it, and he was always right.”
But Peters also confided, “I don’t like telling people off”. In the event, his managerial career, at Sheffield United, was brief. He eventually left the game for the insurance industry.
His World Cup final goal will assure him of an indelible place in his country’s football history.
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