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Mart O 4:57 Sat Sep 23
How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Good read from the club site, an extract from ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’ by Matt Dickinson. Not seen this on here so please delete if already done.

Matt Dickinson explains how It took the vision of Ron Greenwood to set West Ham and England’s finest player Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality...

Bob Dylan sang that the times were a’changing. English football was a’changing, too. Among all the great revolutions of the sixties, the decade of rock and roll and rockets to the moon, the arrival of the back four was not sexy or swinging but it has endured long after mop tops and psychedelic prints have gone out of fashion.

At the 1958 World Cup finals, Brazil had caused a stir and not just because of a teenage sensation called Pelé. With attacking full-backs and two centre-backs, the South Americans popularised a new 4-2-4 strategy. In England, Greenwood was one of the trendsetters, recognising the benefits of the back four – and, most importantly, how it could work perfectly for Bobby Moore.

Moore had moved around several positions. Greenwood had seen him in the junior England teams as a traditional centre-half. In the WM formation which English clubs had slavishly followed for decades, the position was essentially destructive. In the Soccer Syndrome, John Moynihan wrote that the stopper’s only task was to track the centre-forward ‘like a casino manager watching a con man’.

According to Brian Glanville, it had ‘become the Frankenstein’s monster of modern football’, the least demanding position on the field with no creative responsibility. There were skilful exceptions, but mostly it had been a role for tall bruisers, and Moore could be exposed there.

In West Ham’s youth team, some of his team-mates fretted when he faced quick centre-forwards or specialists in the air. They worried about Moore being isolated in that key position because of his lack of pace and reluctance to join the aerial battle. ‘Bobby didn’t particularly like heading the ball because it was untidy,’ says Ken Jones, who covered Moore’s career for the Daily Mirror. ‘Bobby wasn’t interested in untidy.’

In the first team, Moore had mostly been used as a destructive half-back, a midfield scuffler sent out to close down a particular opponent but one day in February 1962, Greenwood pulled Moore aside on the training ground ahead of a match against Leicester City. He explained that he was withdrawing him into defence: ‘I want you to drop back, to play deeper and play loose.’ He was playing him as a ‘spare’ centre-half alongside Ken Brown, effectively making a back four.

They hardly sound like the words to change a career, and certainly not the course of English football. No one hailed the new role at the time, but Geoff Hurst is in no doubt about the deep and lasting significance of that tactical switch. ‘Perhaps Ron’s masterstroke,’ he says, which is quite an accolade considering that Hurst himself was transformed, in a brilliant piece of coaching alchemy, from a middling midfielder to a powerhouse centre-forward who would make an historic impact.

A masterstroke it was. Moore immediately thrived in his role off Brown, seeing problems and smothering them. As Brown battled with the centre-forward, Moore tidied up, bringing order to the defence the way he brought it to his sock drawer and his rack of shirts.

He was always more perceptive than most thanks to the lessons of Allison. Dropping back from the hustle and bustle of midfield allowed his awareness to flourish. It was the skill which, many years later, would prompt the great Scottish manager Jock Stein to say ‘there should be a law against Moore – he can see things 20 minutes before everyone else’.

With the game now laid out in front of him, Moore could use good judgement to help compensate for the lack of pace. His distaste for heading was no longer such an obvious drawback as he learned to drop off and, far more elegantly, take the ball on his chest.

As Moynihan put it, Moore was ‘a smooth, streamlined young Londoner with the appearance of a male model, whose methods have been built for the new emancipated soccer of 4-2-4 and 4-3-3’. The game was changing and Moore had all the qualities to adapt with it. ‘Moore had found his niche,’ Greenwood said, with pride and delight.

Ken Jones, for decades one of Fleet Street’s most perceptive readers of the game, believes that it is hard to overstate how the new tactics shaped Moore’s career: ‘I’m convinced that the change in the way the game was played helped to make Bobby Moore a truly great player.’ Without Greenwood Moore might not have been a world-class defender; he might not have been a defender at all.

This was not just about tactics boards. Great players redefine positions by their own unique, and unmistakeable, qualities. Plenty of English teams embraced the new era but it was Moore who showed just how in influential the new role could become.

He described himself as a ‘sweeper’ which, Greenwood noted proudly, ‘was not a position anyone had heard of before’. Yet the label does not quite fit. Typically, Moore was being too self-deprecating. He was not stationed behind a back line in the libero position that was becoming so common in Italy into the sixties, but just to the left of a stopping centre-back with the freedom to stride forward. ‘Sweeper’ does not begin to do justice to Moore’s range and influence; watching him build play from the back was like watching a team with rear- wheel drive.

One of Greenwood’s constant demands of his players was ‘can you hurt them?’, demanding that his players always look for an attacking opportunity. at included Moore in central defence. He was encouraged by his manager always to look for the quick pass that could turn defence to attack.

He had the accuracy to do it. The sight of Moore striding into midfield and chipping the ball forward would become so commonplace that the players used to joke that Geoff Hurst must have a bull’s-eye on his chest, so frequently could Moore find the target. He played like a gridiron quarter-back, initiating moves with flighted, angled passes.

Allison had always encouraged him to play from deep, and Greenwood preached from the same gospel. When Moore’s ambition proved costly in one game, possession lost and a goal conceded as he tried to carry the ball out of defence, Greenwood told the press that he would much prefer to see a well-intentioned mistake of over-elaboration than a clearance hoofed into the stands.

To a twenty-first-century eye, Moore’s range of influence is startling. What central defender of the modern era would you see breaking forward so boldly, imposing a pattern on the game from centre-half? Modern football has its ball-playing defenders and those with adventurous spirit, but in a game with such aversion to risk, the surging centre-back is almost as extinct as the old five-man attacks. To wish for another Moore may be as romantic, and as pointless, as yearning for another Sinatra.

An extract from: ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’ by Matt Dickinson, published by Yellow Jersey Press, priced £9.99

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

boleyn8420 5:20 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Billy. Fair points and well made. I started going to Upton Park in 1968 when I was 11 and so I have seen first hand what it was that he and John Lyall, latterly, gave West Ham, which on a good day was very, very good but on a bad day was awful, especially when you had to make your way back home on football specials that were deemed unfit for cattle to travel in. However, I have to stand by what I said that for all the good things he bought to the table he could never like any great manager make West Ham a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Mind you lets be fair, neither has any manager at West Ham since.

Still on to the Swansea match and I will continue to imagine that I saw a West Ham team that had Banks, Moore, Hurst and Peters running out of the tunnel at Upton Park

Billy Blagg 2:22 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Here's my review of the book for ESPN http://www.espn.co.uk/football/blog/name/83/post/2113891/headline

I'd not read that review back since I wrote it three years ago but I stand by it. The only insight is Moore's marriage breakdown which is painful reading (especially for anyone who's gone through similar) otherwise it's what we know. Worth a read though for all the stuff we DO know.

mashed in maryland 2:15 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Good read that.

The book is on ebay for about half RRP for any cheapskates who are interested

Billy Blagg 2:10 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
boleyn8420 1:37 Mon Sep 25
If you read any of the books about Moore or Greenwood you get an obvious taste for Ron the Manager (!?). It's not going to be something that will sit well with the majority of people who bang away on the internet all day now though. Greenwood - for good and bad - was a man of his time. As a coach he worked brilliantly with Moore, Hurst, Peters and many other players. But he was also a man at his height in the 1960's and a certain age, things like 'his word' were important to him. That whole thing with Ferguson / Banks were an anathema to many at the time - especially those of a different generation to Greenwood - but to Ron it was the 'right thing'. Read the bit in Moore's autobiography where Moore can't understand why Greenwood told John Cushley he couldn't kick West Germany's Siggi Held up in the air. Moore wanted more steel and grit in West Ham, Greenwood preached pure football because, in his time, it was the way the game was played. I think claims that there's a lot of eulogising are unfair. For a period in the mid-60's West Ham were a team that were admired and feted. The 'eulogising' wouldn't seem like it if we'd done much since. As it is, like the England team, it's all we've got so it's bound to get out of hand.

Mart O 2:08 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
I saw Baresi play in the San Siro once. They used to say he was a centre half with the touch of a centre forward. He was impressive, but tbf the one that caught the eye that day was Van Basten.

I'm not familiar with the Mexican but I can't think of many ball playing centre halves to be compared with Moor0...?

the coming of gary 1:51 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
as far as Moore - class defenders of the modern era ; Rafa Marquez of Mexico, and Baresi of Italy

boleyn8420 1:37 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Shame Greenwood couldn't you know work his 'magic' on all the other players in the team and you know win the league or even have a little bit of consistency like teams such as Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal etc. Oh and before you say the big teams have always been there, lets not forget Ipswich, Derby, Everton and Forest in that time.

Jesus, I am sick to the back teeth of the eulogising of the past to try and make it fit an all conquering West Ham team managed by a genius. The one that still sticks in my craw was Bobby Ferguson instead of Banks. Greenwood was ok but was not a genius, by ant stretch of the imagination

Billy Blagg 1:05 Mon Sep 25
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
An interesting part of the book although Dickinson's book doesn't reveal anything we didn't know. A fascinating but sometimes frustrating read.

Bromley Reject 3:25 Sun Sep 24
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Brilliant article. When you think of the amount of technical knowledge and vision that Greenwood and Malcolm Allison had, you'd be forgiven for thinking League titles must have been permanently in residence in Upton Park during the 60s. It's slightly depressing in a way.

gph 2:20 Sun Sep 24
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
ajc: I'm sure I've seen Rice described as a CH with the skill to be able to play in midfield on here. As if a CH was by definition a not very skillful player. On a West Ham site.

Which just drives home your point.

I wonder if Rice can re-skill the CH position in the future.

ajc123 9:53 Sun Sep 24
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Good post. Modern football is rubbish. Central defenders are cenrre backs pre 58 style with no vision or skill or flexibility to get anywhere near close. Rio was talked about in the same light but was constrained by the rigid formations deployed. The model became Terry, a straight up centre back in the mould of Jack Charlton or Terry Butcher, in his case without the cultural nuances and subtlety. A throwback to the 30s.

The only 2 that came close to Bobby were Walker and Wright together. In our case Martin and Gale. But since then it's a desert

percyd 9:20 Sun Sep 24
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Thanks. Good article and spot-on. I was one of the lucky ones who had the joy of seeing Bobby's entire career. He's not there yet, but John Stones has the potential to follow in Mooro's footsteps. Almost.

Mart O 8:38 Sat Sep 23
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
I was fortunate enough to be in the man's presence on a number of occasions. The thing that sticks with me was the impression of calm and intelligence he had, not to mention dignity.

I know everyone says it, but it was discernable, even to the young lad I was at the time. There was definitely an aura about him.

Leonard Hatred 8:12 Sat Sep 23
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
That Dickinson book is excellent.

gph 5:38 Sat Sep 23
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Good stuff.

Ron was a proper student of the game. Since a lot of players have described him as aloof, I wonder how good a motivator he was. The missing string to his bow?

Probably was aware of it too, using particular players to fulfill that role, but maybe that doesn't work as well as doing it yourself

Coffee 5:07 Sat Sep 23
Re: How Ron Greenwood sent Bobby Moore on his way to football immortality
Good article, thanks for posting.

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