Wonderful memories that will always stand the test of time

Geoff Hurst cracking a shot past goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski to score the final goal of the World Cup

Geoff Hurst cracking a shot past goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski to score the final goal of the World Cup Final against West Germany. - Credit: PA

Sir Geoff Hurst has heard countless times just where everyone else was when his hat-trick helped England win the 1966 World Cup – and his own memories of those 120 minutes on the pitch at Wembley remain as crisp now as half a century ago.

Behind each recollection of that amazing July day lies a special personal experience or perhaps detailed analysis of just by how much did the ball cross the line for Hurst's second goal during the first period of extra-time.

And they are all ones which Hurst will never tire of listening to. 'I very rarely go a day without talking about it. The great joy about winning a World Cup is it lasts forever,' the 74-year-old said.

'People still talk to you about it, people who were at the game or who watched the game all around the world, so the memories last forever, it is fantastic.'

Hurst continued: 'I remember a great deal of the game itself. Before and after was a bit of a blur, but it was the most important game of many people's lives, including the team.

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'Much of what I recall is still as fresh, including the final moments leading up to the (fourth) goal, and how I felt during the games.

'When you come out of the two dressing rooms and into the tunnel, the crowd became aware, it was like a forest fire with the noise coming back down the tunnel.

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'I remember at that moment, it felt like the whole country was out there. I really think we just couldn't afford to be beaten, that was my feeling at the time.'

While Hurst's treble sees him forever enshrined in football folklore, things could have been so different but for injury to one of England's regular goal-scorers Jimmy Greaves, the Tottenham forward regarded as one of the most prolific strikers in the game.

That in itself perhaps allowed Hurst – drafted in for the quarter-final against Argentina, where he scored the only goal of the game – to enjoy the showdown with West Germany rather than trying to play up to the monumental occasion, when the weight of an expectant nation was firmly on the shoulders of Alf Ramsey and his squad.

'My general feeling was I was just happy to be there, I was left out of the first game and my thought was I was just happy to be in the best 22 players in England, at Wembley, in a World Cup,' Hurst recalled.

'So people talk about pressure, but for me there wasn't any great pressure. I was just in the final and happy to be in.

'Sadly Jimmy got injured against the French in the last qualifying (group) game, so I came in and took my chance and the rest of course is history. You have got to be lucky to be at your peak around the time of a World Cup, which I was.'

In the 50 years since that moment of glory at Wembley, fortune has rarely shone on England's football team.

From what might have been at the 1970 World Cup but for illness to goalkeeper Gordon Banks, through the injustice of Diego Madonna's 'Hand of God' followed by a touch of pure genius which knocked Bobby Robson's side out of Mexico '86, to the all-so-nears of semi-final penalty shoot-out heartbreak four years later against West Germany in Turin..... And of course Gazza at Euro '96, where longer studs on his boots would have put Terry Venables' men into another final on home soil rather than suffer defeat from the spot-kick lottery once again.

So very close, yet ultimately all so very far.

'Not in our wildest dreams did we ever think it wouldn't happen again,' said Hurst, looking back on a generation of England greats never to have lifted another major trophy.

But no matter what any England side may go on to achieve over this next century and even beyond, the remarkable efforts of Hurst and his 1966 team-mates will forever stand the test of time.

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