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Saturday February 24, 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of a sad event all long standing West Ham United supporters will remember where they were when it happened. A quarter of a century ago West Ham United’s greatest ever player passed away.
To mark the occasion we reflect on an aspect of Bobby Moore’s career which has not previously been covered in any great depth. This is his time with the England Under- 23 side.
Bobby’s international career lasted for 16 years starting with his first England Youth international appearance against the Netherlands in October 1957 and finishing with his final full cap against Italy in November 1973.
At the time his 18 Youth caps and 108 full England caps were both new appearance records at their respective level. Sandwiched in between his time as a Youth international and making his full England debut against Peru in May 1962, he was still donning the three lions’ white shirt.
A stepping stone to his first full international cap was Moore’s nine appearances at Under-23 level which included one against a Danish club side and eight international games.
A Nation Mourns
February 24, 1993
In the 1950s through to the early 1970s, on the eve of the FA Cup final, a regular fixture in the football calendar was for the full England side to play Young England (Under-23s).
Moore featured in the 1961 and 1962 representative fixtures for the Young England side:
May 5, 1961 England 1 – 1 Young England Stamford Bridge
May 4, 1962 England 3 – 2 Young England Highbury
England Captain at Three Levels
Destined to lead the full England side, Bobby’s preparation included wearing the captain’s armband in four of his nine Under-23 matches. He achieved the rare honour of captaining England sides at Youth, Under-23 and Full level.
18 Months with Under-23s before Full England Debut
Moore's tenure with the Under-23s lasted just 18 months before he was called up as a late replacement into England’s senior squad for the 1962 World Cup. Less than two seasons with the young Lions didn’t give him sufficient time to challenge the then record haul of 16 England Under-23 caps achieved by Maurice Setters (West Bromwich Albion) from 1958 to 1960.
Bobby Moore's Nine Under-23 Matches
Just two months after his last Under-23 international against Turkey on March 22, 1962, Bobby stepped up for his full England debut against Peru on May 20. The West Ham defender was just 38 days past his 21st birthday when he played in this international friendly leading up to the 1962 World Cup Finals.
West Ham’s Under-23s Trio – Moore, Byrne & Kirkup
Bobby Moore and Johnny Byrne’s Under-23 and Full international careers ran in parallel. While Moore’s Under-23 career started in November 1960, Byrne’s kicked-off four months later in February 1961 against Wales. Starting with the Wales match at Goodison Park, Moore and Byrne enjoyed an uninterrupted run of seven games. Moore winning eight caps to Byrne’s seven. Though the first six of Johnny Byrne’s Under-23 caps were gained whilst on Crystal Palace’s books.
By the time of the last Moore / Byrne combination in March 1962 against Turkey, the Crystal Palace striker had transferred to West Ham United. For this international held at Southampton’s The Dell, a trio of Hammers appeared in the England side which comfortably beat the Turks 4-1. Joining Moore and Byrne was full back Joe Kirkup. This was one of Joe’s three Under-23 caps to add to his single 1957 Youth cap.
The table below summarises West Ham United related players’ appearances for the England Under-23s.
Another player called-up for one of Bobby’s Under 23 games was future Hammer Peter Brabrook, who would provide the pass for West Ham’s winning goal in the 1964 FA Cup. In Moore’s Under-23 games, Brabrook made a solitary appearance in 1960-61’s Scotland international.
Match 1 :
Maine Road, Manchester September 21, 1960
England 5 – 1 Velje Boldklub (Denmark XI)
In short, the British Government would not issue visas to the East Germans in time for their team to travel. Rather than scrap the Under-23 match arrangements, the Football Association quickly found replacement opposition.
In stepped a side billed in the programme as a Danish XI, which was actually the Danish First Division club, Vejle. While not as strong opposition as the East Germans, the Vejle side did include three of Denmark’s team which 11 days earlier had lost the final of the 1960’s Olympic football final to Yugoslavia.
Moore’s first selection for the Under-23s was for an international against East Germany. But politics intervened. In this Cold War era and with less than a week before the match, it was announced “travel restrictions imposed during the difficulties over access to Berlin have caused the cancellation of the Under-23 match between England and East Germany”.
Match 2 :
St. James' Park, Newcastle : November 2, 1960
England 1 – 1 Italy
For Bobby Moore the match at St. James' Park would have been a memorable evening as he finally made his Under-23 international debut.
But at the time the match would have been more outstanding for the fracas following the three lion’s equaliser.
The Italian goalkeeper with the ball, was charged into the back of the goal. Moments later this was followed by the Italians pushing the referee 25 yards into the goal net. Order was eventually restored after the linesman, police and Italian trainers intervened.
Not only has the political scene changed. In the 1950s and 1960s England’s match preparations often included full scale practice games behind closed doors. Prior to the match against the Danes the Under- 23s faced the full England side twice in two days.
England’s Practice Match
Match 3 :
Goodison Park, Liverpool : February 8, 1961
England 2 – 0 Wales
Much of the pre-match focus was on Johnny Byrne’s selection for the Under-23s. Talk mentioned Byrne’s 26 goals for Fourth Division table topping side Crystal Palace, with the Palace striker as a natural deputy for Jimmy Greaves in the England team. But it was Bobby Moore’s turn to take the match headings.
Match 4 :
Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough : March 1, 1961
England 0 – 1 Scotland
In his 3rd match and 2nd international at Under-23 level, he made his mark and dominated the report headings with “Memo to England – Moore is Ready”.
In Bobby’s Under-23 career this Intermediate international at Ayresome Park was the only blot in his copy book.
Of his nine matches this was the only game England failed to win and even with Johnny Byrne in the side, failed to score. Reading the match reports, England underperformed and from Moore’s perspective there was nothing to write home about.
A single goal from Manchester City's Dennis Law settled the game in the Scots’ favour.
Match 5 :
White Hart Lane, London : March 15, 1961
England 4 – 1 West Germany
Moore’s fifth Under-23 match was more notable for a couple of reasons. West Germany, five seasons later, would provide the opposition in his career defining 120 minutes. Yet to turn 20, Bobby was elevated to the role of captain for this first time.
The Daily Mail reported: “In this 5th under-23 game of the 1960-61 season the selectors have made a total of 26 team changes. The only player to survive all five matches is left half, Bobby Moore, who takes over the captaincy from McNeill (Middlesbrough).”
But it was future West Ham club mate, Johnny Byrne who was man of the match as he grabbed the Daily Telegraph match report headlines with Byrne Inspires England To Finest Victory. The match report explained “.....but nothing matched Byrne’s display with clever control and distribution he was behind almost every England attack.”
Reading the description of Byrne’s goal it is a reminder of how one of his future West Ham team mates would also score against the West Germans five years later: “Receiving a pass from Shawcross he hit a glorious left-foot volley against the bar and though Bernard (West Germany’s goalkeeper) gathered as the ball bounced down it had already crossed the line.”
Match 6 :
Elland Road, Leeds : November 9, 1961
England 7 – 1 Israel
Tony Macedo, John Angus, Mick McNeil, Alan Mullery, Brian Labone, Bobby Moore, John Connelly, Peter Dobing, Joe Baker, John Fantham, Bobby Charlton.
Gordon Banks, John Angus, Mick McNeil, Barber, Brian Labone, Bobby Moore, Terry Paine, Freddie Hill, Joe Baker, Burnside, Bobby Charlton
Gordon Banks, John Angus, Gerry Byrne, J. Kirkham, Brian Labone, Bobby Moore, H. Riley, Chris Crowe, Johnny Byrne, Les Allen, C.Clark.
Gordon Banks, George Cohen, Mick McNeil, J. Kirkham, Brian Labone, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Peter Dobing, Joe Baker (Johnny Byrne), Chris Crowe, Mick O'Grady.
Tony Macedo, George Cohen, Len Ashurst, F. Shawcross, J. McGrath, Bobby Moore, Terry Paine, Freddie Hill, Johnny Byrne, J. Barnwell, M. Harrison.
Gordon West, Joe Kirkup, G. Jones, Bobby Moore, Brian Labone, A. Deakin, S. Hill, Johnny Byrne, J. Farmer, Freddie Hill, Gordon Harris.
Moore was now a regular in the England set-up and in this, his sixth match he came up against the full Israel National side. Not an easy fixture as the Israelis had beaten the young Lions 4-0 in Tel Aviv the previous year.
Pre-match comment from West Ham’s manager Ron Greenwood, confirmed Moore would be fit to play despite a gash in his left knee. Captain for the 2nd time, Moore led his side to a convincing 7-1 victory despite being a goal down after only eight minutes.
The Three Lions side included full back and club mate Joe Kirkup making his debut for the national side. Kirkup stepped in as a replacement for Burnley’s John Angus who prior to Moore, had captained the Under-23s.
The Daily Telegraph reported “Moore worked industriously” as Johnny Byrne excelled with a goal double and featured in the match report’s sub-heading with “Byrne Stakes Claim for Cap”.
Match 7 :
Stadion Feijenoord, Rotterdam : November 29, 1961
Holland 2 – 5 England
Peter Grummitt, Joe Kirkup, G. Jones, Alan Mullery, Brian Labone, Bobby Moore, S. Hill, Johnny Byrne, J. Farmer, Freddie Hill, Richard Le Flem
Three weeks later and it was the Dutch Under-23s who were put to the sword. In Moore’s, Byrne’s and Kirkup’s sole overseas under-23 trip, they overcame Holland with a comfortable 5-2 win in Rotterdam.
Match 8 :
Pittodrie Park, Aberdeen : February 28, 1962
Scotland 2 – 4 England
D. Gaskell (Peter Bonetti), John Angus, G. Jones, John Crawford, Brian Labone (M. Hinton), Bobby Moore, S. Hill, Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Byrne, Freddie Hill, Peter Thompson (M. Harrison).
The 1961-62 season’s friendly against the Scots made up for the previous season’s disappointing defeat. By the time of this fixture Johnny Byrne was eight days away from joining his England Under- 23 team mates, Moore and Kirkup, at West Ham United.
The sports back-pages were full of transfer speculation regarding Johnny Byrne's impending move across London. But despite being hot news, the Crystal Palace marksman couldn’t add to the goals scored in his three previous international appearances.
For Bobby, after captaining the Under-23s in the previous three games, Turf Moor's John Angus returned to the side and picked up the captain’s armband.
Match 9 :
The Dell, Southampton : March 22, 1962
England 4 – 1 Turkey
Peter Bonetti, Joe Kirkup, G. Jones, Bobby Moore, M. Hinton, A. Deakin, S. Hill (Terry Paine), Freddie Hill, Johnny Byrne, D. Burnside, M. Harrison
Bobby Moore, Johnny Byrne and Joe Kirkup rounded off their Under-23 tenure as members of the eleven which outclassed Turkey. As Johnny Byrne had signed for the Hammers earlier in the month, it meant West Ham United were represented by three players in an Under-23 international for the first time.
According to the match report Bobby Moore did not perform to his usual high standard. But Byrne was mentioned in dispatches. The Daily Telegraph headline ran: Byrne Drives England On To Victory. And rightly so as he netted two of England’s four goals to make his personal tally six goals in his seven Under-23 internationals.
Both of his goals against Turkey were 2nd half strikes. The second described as “Fred Hill sent Byrne away on a long run and Byrne scored in the style of a £65,000 player.”
FA Representative Honours
During Moore’s tenure with the Under-23s he also gained some FA representative honours. The first of these was selection for an FA XI. Bobby was in an FA XI side which faced the Army on October 19, 1960. Lining up alongside several big names of the day the FA XI won 2-1. Eight months later at the end of the 1960-61 season in joined another FA representative squad.
Football Association Tour – Summer 1961
Another sign of greater things to come was Bobby’s selection for the FA’s May / June tour of the Far East and Australia. He had just turned 20 and with four Under-23 caps under his belt, the Hammers' defender joined the FA party for a series of matches in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and San Francisco.
Details and reports on these tour matches are sparse but we do have a full list of the match dates and scores. This includes the tour’s second game on May 21, 1961 against a Hong Hong XI. In a 4-2 win for the FA XI, Moore scored one of the goals.
Young England v. England
Eve of FA Cup Final
As this feature has highlighted, even though Bobby Moore’s 18 months with the Under-23s and FA representative sides has perhaps been overlooked, it was an important part of his development which would lead to far greater achievements. For the West Ham United fans who had the opportunity to see the great player in action, we were privileged.
Later Moore would jump the fence and captain the full England side against the young lions in four of these matches (1966 to 1969 inclusive).
Importance of Under-23 & FA Representative Experience
Johnny Byrne Crystal Palace and Bobby Moore are interviewed by the BBC Hebrew Service following their selection against the Israel National side.
Pre-match reporting by the Daily Mail headlined “No Moore Problem” and explained how he would have no problem fitting into the international side. And that is what happened as match reports explained “Moore was one of the players who did well”. He even made it a scoring debut with England’s fourth goal in the 66th minute with a shot from 20 yards, in the comfortable 5-1 win.
Incidentally, two of Moore’s future 1966 World Cup team mates, Gordon Banks and Bobby Charlton, were also in the England side.
DId you know?
In 1961 West Ham provided the opposition in one of these practice games.
In March 1961 the Hammers beat the England XI 1-0 in a 30 minutes each way affair at Upton Park. Geoff Hurst providing the only strike.
The Daily Mail’s report described him as the “bright young star”. The report continued: “Moore, the outstanding Youth captain of three years ago, showed that he and Blackburn inside forward Chris Crowe will soon be ready to deputise for Johnny Haynes and Bobby Robson, the key link men in England’s senior team”.
The newspaper also described Bobby as almost England’s most dangerous forward as he scored the Three Lions second goal in the 63rd minute: “A 25 yard free kick, quickly taken by Moore struck Wales’ centre-half Mel Nurse, and finished in the net”.
Byrne beats Neumann, German right-back, before banging in England’s first goal
Bobby Moore in action against the Israelis
On-the-spot repairs. Johnny Byrne looks on as Turkish goalkeeper Arkoc receives treatment after colliding with the England player
West Ham United match programme recognition
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The Daily Mail’s match report included football’s understatement of the season with “Moore, 21, is I think, going to play a great part in English soccer’s future. He blossomed in his role as captain. Perhaps the only criticism was that he tried too much. But this is not a bad fault in a young leader.”
The match report explained how Moore helped pave the way for Johnny Byrne’s goal: “Five minutes later Moore again started the move from which Fred Hill found Byrne, who slipped the ball past the goalkeeper.”
Two team mates for the West Ham United related trio, were Alan Mullery (Fulham) and Brian Labone (Everton) who nine years later would join Moore as members of England’s 1970 Mexico World Cup squad.
1961-62 England Under-23s
Back row: B. Wright, J. Kirkup, T. Paine, A. Deakin, G. Jones, P. Bonetti, G. West, M. Hinton, B. Moore
Front row: S. Hill, F. Hill, J. Byrne, J. Robson, M. Harrison
Image courtesy of Nigel Turner