KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Had it not been for Wolfgang Weber, Martin Peters would have gone down in English football history as not only one of the 1966 World Cup winners but THE 1966 World Cup winner.
Peters, then a 22-year-old halfback from West Ham, had been drafted into the England team by manager Sir Alf Ramsey midway through the finals after the attack misfired at the start of the group stage.
In the final against West Germany at Wembley it was Peters who stretched a leg forward in the 78th minute to jab England into a 2-1 lead. History beckoned both team and individual. Then, in the last minute of stoppage time, Weber equalised and the final went to extra time where it was Peters’s club-mate Geoff Hurst whose two goals stole the show.
Ramsey never had any doubt about Peters’s quality which permitted him a rare versatility. “Martin Peters,” said Ramsey, “is a player who is 10 years ahead of his time.”
The comment was dismissed at the time as unusual hyperbole from England’s manager but time would prove him right as improved training techniques, fitness regimes and facilities saw the development of total football and the evolution of a ‘new football’ era.
Peters has become the fifth member of England’s World Cup winning team to have died, along with Moore, Alan Ball, Ray Wilson and Gordon Banks. He was 76.
He rose through the West Ham academy, having signed as an apprentice in 1959, and help win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 alongside Hurst and club and country captain Bobby Moore.
After 364 games and 100 goals, Peters left Upton Park for Tottenham in 1970, becoming Britain’s first £200,000 footballer, in a deal which saw striker Jimmy Greaves head in the opposite direction.
Peters helped manager Bill Nicholson’s team win the League Cup at Wembley in 1971 and again, as captain, in 1973, a season after playing his part in Spurs’ UEFA Cup victory over Wolves. He went on to play for Norwich and Sheffield United. He retired in 1981, three years after being awarded the MBE following 20 goals in 67 appearances for England.
In 2016, it was revealed Peters had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, one of several of the 1966 team to be battling dementia.
A statement from his family read: “It is with profound sadness that we announce that Martin passed away peacefully in his sleep at 4.00am this morning.
“A beloved husband, dad and granddad, and a kind, gentle and private man, we are devastated by his loss but so very proud of all that he achieved and comforted by the many happy memories we shared.
“We will be making no further comment and kindly ask that the privacy of our family is respected at this extremely difficult time.”
Hurst led the tributes, saying: “[This] is a very sad day for football and for me personally. Martin Peters was one of the all-time greats and a close friend and colleague of mine for in excess of 50 years.
“A fellow World cup final goalscorer and my West Ham partner for years along with Bobby Moore. RIP old friend.”
West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold described Peters as “one of the greatest figures” in the 125-year history of the club. Many other tributes included those from Tottenham, Norwich and the Football Association.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Peters’ death as “very sad news”, adding on Twitter: “No England fan will ever forget the heroics of Martin Peters and his fantastic teammates. My sympathies go out to all of those who knew and loved him.”