Friday, 22 February 2013

Wolves fans, crap t-shirts and Bobby Moore

I never saw Bobby Moore play and I never met him. I'm told he was a special player and a lovely bloke. The antithesis of Matthew Upson, if you like, the last West Ham player to wear the number six shirt before it was retired. If I cannot contribute much to the Bobby Moore plaudits and anecdotes, I do at least have a bit to say about his legacy.

I was at Upton Park in March 1993 for the first home match following Moore's death. As a ten-year old I was well aware of who he was, but the reality is that it was only in death that Moore was truly appreciated and lauded. The atmosphere at that match blew me away. Suddenly I became aware of what we had lost.

Standing on the North Bank watching on as Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters carried onto the pitch the Bobby Moore number six shirt-shaped bouquet made the hairs stand up on my neck like nothing else I'd known. Then a Wolves fan emerged from the South Bank and carried an orange and black bouquet to the centre circle. I hadn't realised until then that football was capable of this.

The emotion was compounded at the end of the season when I watched the season's highlights video. There's an interview with a guy from Manchester who travels down for every home match with his son who, we learn, wears number six for his local team. The bloke is crying as he speaks. It's as close as I'll ever get to understanding how people could get choked up about the death of Princess Diana.

It was years later that I learned the sad truth about Moore's life after retiring from football. I learned that after a short managerial spell at Southend no one was interested in giving him a break as a manager or coach. It's hard to believe that at the very least he did not have something to offer as a defensive coach. The closest he got to a break was writing a column for David Sullivan's Daily Sport. I could weep just thinking about the waste.

As a club, West Ham must hang its head in shame. Moore's last visit to Upton Park was curtailed when a steward apologised but said he'd been told to ask him to leave because he hadn't paid to be there. What I wouldn't give to find the man who made that call, and leave him alone with the old ICF boys for ten minutes.

I don't often agree with Harry Redknapp but he's right about this: What's the point in naming a stand after a man the minute he dies when you treated him so abysmally when he was alive?

It's hard to know how the current regime would have treated him. They were quick to take away the Lyall family's corporate box, so I fear they would have been equally insensitive. Nowadays, the club uses Moore's name to sell t-shirts. Not even good t-shirts.

I quickly shed that cynicism when I think of that fan from Manchester and the thousands of other fans who remember him for no ulterior motive, but simply to pay homage to a great player and a great man - the sort to whom no one in the modern game begins to compare. Or at least that's what everyone who ever knew him says - and that's good enough for me.

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