A Welsh football memory of the late, great Bobby Moore from Mark Pitman.
Eighteen years ago today football mourned the loss of one of its legends and favourite sons as the great Bobby Moore, the man that lifted the World Cup as captain of England in 1966, sadly lost his fight against cancer in 1993. The anniversary of his untimely passing brings with it anecdotes from family, friends and his former football colleagues, but there is a lesser known story that involves Bobby playing, scoring, and briefly refereeing, all during the same 90 minutes at his beloved Upton Park.
The story is the signature-tale of former Football League referee Gerrard Lewis. Born and raised in the South Wales town of Port Talbot, Lewis had worked his way through the ranks to become a Football League official, and in 1970 was appointed for the First Division match between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers on the 14th of November. For all his domestic, European and International appointments, this would prove to be Lewis’s most memorable game, despite him completely missing a small but very crucial part of it.
Moore was the captain of a West Ham side that day that included players such as Frank Lampard Snr, Harry Redknapp and Geoff Hurst as they prepared to take on a Wolves side featuring Phil Parkes in goal, Kenny Hibbitt, Bobby Gould and Derek Dougan amongst others in the wet and windy conditions of Upton Park. The early exchanges were fast and furious, but it was a header out of defence from Moore that would cause the unlikely events that immediately followed.
As the ball left Moore’s head, it connected with Lewis’s, and knocked the Port Talbot official out cold. With Lewis laying flat on the ground, the World Cup winning captain grabbed his whistle and brought the game to a standstill. The trainers of both sides ran to the assistance of the laid-out referee before he slowly came back around. Left dazed and confused, Moore checked on the well-being of Lewis, before handing him back the whistle once the referee had confirmed to all those gathered around that he was ok to continue.
The two sides went on to play out a 3-3 draw as Moore joined Geoff Hurst and Peter Eustace on the scoresheet for the Hammers, while the visitors earned a share of the points when a goal from Jim McCalliog was followed by a double from Bobby Gould. The following days newspapers reported with a selection of period-style headlines and match report openers of the incident that included ‘Its Referee Moore’, ‘Moore scores – K.O.s ref’ and ‘Bobby ‘The Whistler’ Moore’.
Another Sunday tabloid headline neglected to mention Moore’s brief foray into officiating, instead concentrating on another bizarre anecdote from the game. ‘Moore hits target – in Bonds’s boot’, lead the intriguing introduction, as the story emerged that Bobby Moore had in fact worn one of Billy Bonds boots, for the match, a size bigger than his own, in order to offer some protection to the broken big toe he had suffered just ten days before the game. It offers a timely reflection of how top-flight football used to be in this modern age of pampered professional’s.
It was an eventful match for Bobby Moore but a far more memorable one for referee Gerrard Lewis, and through more luck than judgement, those in attendance at Upton Park would not be the only privileged few to enjoy it. Televised football was a rarity back in the 1970’s, another significant sign of how times have changed, but the West Ham v Wolves match was selected by ITV to fill their football highlight slot alongside their weekly live match the following day. By Saturday night however, the nation had been privy to the events, as the clip featured on the national news round-up that evening.
Thousands of English football fans reflect on the glory of 1966 and the image of Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy as their abiding memory of this model-professional. For a successful Welsh referee however, his own small story about Moore makes for a career highlight, and one that deserves a wider-audience in this time of reflection on England’s one and only World Cup winning captain.
You can read more from Mark at www.markpitman1.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @markpitman1