A Book Review
Bobby Moore: The Man in Full
I follow football. Love watching it, love playing, love talking about it. Admittedly this is the first biography I have read on Bobby Moore and I must confess that my knowledge of Moore prior to this book was poor, embarrassingly so. The only fact that I knew was that Bobby Moore was the first and only England captain to lead the national team to World Cup triumph.
Bobby Moore: The Man in Full is an enlightening biography of a player widely regarded as England’s greatest player. Matt Dickinson provides a comprehensive account of Moore’s life on and off the pitch, detailing his exploits both as a player and a person. It is a fascinating read of a time when football was played differently from how it is today.
I am of an age where the football I watch is of the Premier League era, and consequently I know very little about football before this period. But this book attempts to address these issues that exist with the majority of young football supporters, by providing an education on football and English culture during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Matt Dickinson has written an extremely well-researched biography. From this account, Moore was shown to be a very private individual, with many of his close friends admitting that they didn’t know him that well. Jack Charlton remarked ‘He wasn’t like us. He was one of us, but he wasn’t like us.’ Moore lived in an age before the public confessional became a popular occurrence for celebrities and sports stars. And so it must have been a monumental effort to shine light upon the darkness that surrounded his career. Dickinson’s biography includes thoughts from Moore’s first and second wives, Tina and Stephanie, as well as several close friends, including World Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst, Jack Charlton, George Cohen and Martin Peters.
If Moore was playing today, he would most likely be labelled a ‘flawed genius’. In an England shirt it appeared that Moore couldn’t put a foot wrong. As Greenwood described it: ‘Bobby is not a bread-and-butter player. He is made for the biggest occasion. The more extreme the challenge, the more commanding he will be. He should play at Wembley every week.’ At club level, he regularly fell out with his manager. One of the major issues was drink. Moore liked a beer or two, maybe even a dozen, after a game – and sometimes before – resultingly Greenwood called into question his commitment to the club. Dickinson highlights, on many occasions, Moore’s strained relationship with his manager and his club, which continued into life after he had retired from playing. In short, football turned its back on Moore. He struggled financially, with many failed business ventures, and jumped at the chance to get back into football, even if it was at Herning Fremad (an amateur Danish third-division side) or managing Oxford City.
It would be naïve to think Moore was without blemish, Dickinson highlights as much in the prologue. However, this is not an attempt by Dickinson to knock Moore off his pedestal, but to simply ‘humanise him’. The memory of Moore has been misshapen over the years. His early death has led to Moore becoming football’s first ever saint. Dickinson writes, ‘In death, Moore was no longer the pundit on local radio or the failed manager. Once again, he was the immaculate hero of 1966.’ Even now, this façade still remains. As Matthew Syed has written, ‘Authenticity has been obscured by sentimentality.’
It only takes one look at the twelve-foot statue of Moore outside Wembley to realise as much. The plaque reads: ‘Immaculate footballer. Imperial defender. Immortal hero of 1966. First Englishman to raise the World Cup aloft. Favourite son of London’s East End. Finest legend of West Ham United. National Treasure. Master of Wembley. Lord of the game. Captain extraordinary. Gentleman of all time.’
Nobody could be that perfect. But it is sometimes easier to remember them that way rather than the complicated truth. Much like when a loved one dies we are told to remember the good times. A much truer account of Moore’s character is the words on his gravestone. It reads: ‘Bobby Moore O.B.E. 1941 – 1993. Also Robert Edward Moore 1913 – 1978, Doris Joyce Moore 1912 – 1992’. As ever it understates his sporting achievements, which Dickinson compares to climbing Everest or walking on the moon. One thing that is apparent through-out this biography is Moore’s modest, humbled, grounded character, which defined his career, both as a player and as a manager. As Sir Michael Parkinson remarked, ‘Bobby was very clearly the last well-mannered footballer, the last true hero.’