Sir Geoff Hurst: “People still talk about the World Cup, where they were on that day.”

As the last man standing of the 1966 England World Cup winning eleven - many of them lost to Alzheimer’s - hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst talks dementia, his great sadness at losing his teammates and why Harry Kane can become a legend.

Sir Geoff Hurst is hanging his hopes on England this year

Sir Geoff Hurst is hanging his hopes on England this year

With the Euro Final only weeks away, England aren’t looking like they’re going to bring football home any time soon. If you were in the changing room before the next match, what would you say to the team?

I’d have a bit of a go at them. I’d have a bit of a dig. I’d say, ‘Come on, for God’s sake. It’s about time you lot won something.

That’s the kind of attitude I’d have. I’d say, ‘Look, there are some fantastic players in this dressing room. Let’s get out there and win it. You’re capable of it. For Goodness’ sake, do it for the country.’ 

The country could do with a bit of a morale boost. What impact do you think winning the tournament would have?

It would have a massively positive effect. We saw that at the time we won it. People still talk about the World Cup, where were they on the day, who they were with, even today.

It has a fantastic morale lifting effect on the whole country when we’re successful in any sport, and particularly football as it’s the biggest sport.

Do you still love talking about 1966, 58 years later?

I never fail to stop talking about it or think I’m fed up talking about it, not for a second. It’s something that you grow up and live with.

That day changed my life to a great extent and particularly more so, now that I’m the last one of that fantastic group of players.

When you lifted the trophy at Wembley on July 30th, 1966, did you ever imagine that you’d outlive the rest of the team?

Well, firstly, I think losing all my teammates and being the last man standing fills me with a great deal of sadness. Every clip or photograph of all of us or some of us makes me very, very sad. 

I think there’s an element of luck and it’s a lottery how old you get. I’m still not the oldest player.

A few players in the side were older than me when they died: Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Banksy, so that I’m not the oldest yet. I’ve still got a few years to go before I become the oldest player.

Sir Geoff Hurst remembers his 1966 teammates with fondness

Sir Geoff Hurst remembers his 1966 teammates with fondness

You looked a decade younger than your 82 years when you stepped out on the Wembley pitch for England’s match against Iceland. What’s your secret?

There’s an element of lottery in it, but I think we all realise what we should try and do as humans, quite obviously exercise. I continue to do that and also eat fairly sensibly.

Those are the two major things that we all know we should be doing. I don’t eat out a lot. My wife enjoys cooking, and she cooks stuff that’s sensible and healthy, and I exercise every day, I’ve still got routine every day.

Several of your 1966 teammates, including Bobby Charlton who passed away last October, died from dementia probably not helped by heading the heavy balls used during that era. Are you monitoring your own brain health and how are you right now?

Well, I’m talking to you and realising who you are so I’m obviously okay to take a phone call, which I would struggle with if I wasn’t OK. So no, I’m not monitored or tested at all. 

What are your thoughts on football’s links to dementia?

It’s such a complicated issue. Some people talk about heading a ball, as an issue, which may well be true, but there are people who get dementia who have never headed a football in their life, so it’s a bit more complicated. 

Are you aware of the research being done on the issue?

I am. There have been some surveys. Professor Willie Stewart up in Scotland, has said that professional players are three and a half times more likely to get dementia than anybody in the street, but I know people who have never been near a football or any knocks and bangs who have dementia, so it’s a very complicated issue and there’s an element of lottery when it comes to it.

Many dementia scientists believe that diet, exercise, human connection and learning new skills are pivotal towards protecting brain health and reducing the risk of developing dementia. Are you following that advice personally?

Most of it but I’m not sure about the next skills bit but I’m aware that it’s important to keep doing things that keep you occupied.

My main hobby is just doing the odd after dinner speech so organising my travel and accommodation keeps my brain occupied.

Sir Geoff hopes he'll be toasting an England victory!

Sir Geoff hopes he'll be toasting an England victory!

If Harry Kane does finally break his trophy drought and lift the European Championship on July 14th, how will you be celebrating?

One or two negative people say I don’t want us to win a trophy again because I was in the team that did it last, which, is of course, absolute nonsense. 

Nobody understands better than me and feels as I do, having been involved with a great bunch of players, that have actually won it. 

I understand. And I’m as big an England fan as there is around, so I will be as happy as anybody in the country. Happier than most if we were to do it again.

Geoff Hurst is backing Budweiser’s Bring It Home campaign. To watch his Euros 2024 visit Bring It Home | Budweiser and Sir Geoff Hurst (youtube.com)