by Noel Draper

For the past few days I have been thinking about footballers from the past thirty or so years and if I liked any of them. It really doesn’t matter who they play for, but do I actually like any of them? As I watch them on football shows, listen to them on the radio, hear stories of bestiality and read their twittering “banter” I have come to the conclusion that apart from a few shining lights (that’s you Mr P. Neville and you Mr P. Lake) I don’t. I don’t hate them but I wouldn’t fancy a beer with any.

It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when model football players were the norm, when they mingled with the great and the good but crucially also mingled with the great and the unwashed. They drank in the same pubs, they stood in the same betting shops, they ate in the same restaurants and they shopped in the same shops. It was a time before big money ruined them, a time before minders, security guards, electronic gates and wives who seem to think anybody is actually interested in their make up product / shoe choice / thoughts on hair extensions.

Men like Colin Bell, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton still stuck to their working class roots. Sure they were stars, world stars even, but they were accessible. When was the last time you saw a footballer from the Premier league in your local shop buying a paper? Or in your local pub? The answer is hardly ever but Bobby Moore managed it nearly every day. He even made a television commercial asking people to “Pop into their local”. If you wanted a chat with Stan Bowles then you headed to the nearest bookies, usually ten minutes before kick off. Alan Mullery says that when he was at Fulham him and his teammates would stay on after the game and drink at the club bar until 9.30pm drinking half pints of beer or shandy. Hard to believe I know. Half pints! Cyril Knowles part owned a fish and chip bar and helped out behind the counter in the off season. Nice one. But there is one man that I have seem to have missed out in the above ramblings, a man who Sir Alf Ramsey once said of, “He is ten years ahead of his time”. That man’s name? Martin Peters.

When he moved to Spurs he became Britain’s first £200,000 player.

I’ll give you some well known statistics about Martin Peters. He scored in a World Cup final at the age of 22 and ended up with 20 goals for his country. Martin scored over 200 goals in his career. When he moved to Spurs he became Britain’s first £200,000 player.
So, with all those lovely goalscoring exploits the next line you would expect me to write would be along the lines of “and he was Geoff Hurst’s strike partner at both West Ham and England” but you would be wrong, because Martin didn’t really have a position nailed down. He famously played in every position (including goalkeeper) for West Ham United. Sure he scored goals, lot’s of them, but he also tackled, ran the midfield and organised the defence sometimes in the same game. He was the world’s first utility player but he was and still is also a very nice and polite person as well.
If a load of fans wanted an autograph he didn’t sign a few and then speed off in his flash sports car. No, he signed them all and then walked off down the street. Walked. He went to his local pub and if you believed the Bobby Moore pub advert he went with the England captain and their girlfriends whose names no-one knew. Or cared to know. Not once did Martin go to court for repeatedly hitting a DJ who dared to play the same record six times in a row. I am right in saying that Mr Peters never drove up the hard shoulder of a motorway because he needed a slash. I’m also positive that Martin never visited an octogenarian prostitute for old lady kicks and yet he is nearly a forgotten man. When asked who scored in the 1966 World Cup final most people can name the hat-trick scorer and if they are old enough mutter something about a bandy legged old-looking bloke dancing with the lid on his head and that’s it.

Why? Why is one of England’s greatest ever players almost forgotten about? Is it because he was also a family man, a family man who married in 1964 and is still married to the same person? Is it because there is no scandal about him like Bobby Moore and his bracelet fix up? Whatever the reason it is a shame, as is the fact that he has never been honoured for services to football when the DJ puncher and brother’s wife shagger have been. That is the greatest shame of all.