WORLD Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst has called for his late England teammate Jack Charlton to receive a posthumous knighthood – and says the entire 1966 squad should be made Sirs.
The hattrick hero, 78, and Jack’s younger brother Sir Bobby Charlton, 82, are the only members of the team to have received the honour.
Speaking following the legendary defender’s passing aged 85 on July 10, Sir Geoff told The Sun: “Jack was a better player than he gave himself credit for… you couldn’t get a better character to be put forward for a posthumous knighthood with his warmth, character not to mention the success he achieved on the pitch.”
He added: “You could argue that all the team should be knighted.”
Jack was battling dementia as well as lymphoma prior to his death, and is one of four 1966 England players to be diagnosed with the neurological condition.
Ray Wilson sadly died in May 2018, while Martin Peters passed away in December, aged 76.
Sir Geoff, who now campaigns for dementia support, said he and his wife spoke to Martin’s widow Kathy on a daily basis during lockdown, which was imposed just three months after his death.
He said: “Martin is almost family, so I’ve known Kathy most of my life. His wife still picks up the phone and speaks to my wife daily and talks about what it was like and how she’s trying to overcome the loss of her husband.
“It’s difficult… it was a huge blow with Martin, particularly when you’ve grown up together. It was obviously one of the saddest moments for me.”
Midfielder Nobby Stiles, 78, is also living with dementia.
Sir Geoff said: “People were all talking about how difficult it is in these conditions, but people with dementia are probably worst hit by the pandemic. It can cause permanent deterioration in a short period of time.
“I know it’s been very difficult for Nobby, and his family of course.”
Sir Geoff, who is backing an emergency appeal by Alzheimer’s Society after the charity was financially hit by Covid, revealed footage of England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany is helping people with Alzheimer’s recover memories.
He said: “There are a number of people playing old films and music that the person affected with dementia will recognise and that’s becoming quite a tactic to help somebody recall things in the past.
“For many there’s no better way to help people with dementia than to show the World Cup final because it was the biggest television audience we ever had.
“People tell me regularly they remember the day, where they were and what they were doing. Things like that are becoming very helpful to a person with dementia in helping them reconnect.”
Sir Geoff also welcomed a recent heading ban in training for under-11s, and tighter restrictions on players under 18, after research showed ex-footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from a brain condition.
“I agree absolutely, totally with that. At West Ham we had a ball hanging from the ceiling of the gym where we would practice heading daily. You would head the ball 30, 40, 50 times in a session.
“Stopping kids of 10 from heading the ball is a good step forward. I’m not a scientist, but we all know a child’s brain is not as developed as when they’re an adult.”