Bobby Moore and his secret cancer in 1966

NORMAN GILLER has published his 94th book, and it is all in a very worthy cause

Golden days: Captain Bobby Moore on his day of days in 1966

Some people run marathons for charity, but my old pins are not up to it. So I have written a book to raise cash and awareness for the Bobby Moore Cancer Fund. It is called Bobby Moore The Master, and tells the tale not only of Bobby’s remarkable life and times but also the story of the golden age of English football.

I am unashamedly using my SJA column to plug the book because the profits are not going into the pocket of the publisher (me) but into the coffers of the Bobby Moore Fund.

Our hero passed on all too early in 1993 at the age of 51, the victim of bowel cancer, and I have written this book in association with the Bobby Moore Fund to mark the 20th anniversary since his widow, Stephanie, launched it in harness with Cancer Research UK. A guaranteed £5 for every copy sold online will be going to the Fund, so hopefully people will not only get a good read but a good feeling for helping such a worthy cause.

I am able to be this generous because of print-on-demand techniques that mean I am able to control the outgoings without having to surrender huge percentages to the book stores. The suicidal ritual of the likes of Amazon and the major supermarkets slashing cover prices is savaging conventional publishers.

More than £18 million has so far been raised by the Bobby Moore Fund to help finance research into one of the most common and brutal of the cancers, and I am one of those lucky ones who has benefited from the improved knowledge of recent years.

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007, and thanks to the advancement of medical data – considerably helped by research money – I have (so far) survived following a major operation. Now I am putting something back.

The surgeon told me he’d removed a tumour the size of Mike Tyson’s fist, and I responded that I was glad it was not as big as another part of his anatomy ( I have cleaned that up). But it’s no laughing matter, and while telling Bobby Moore’s inspirational story I hope to raise awareness of why everything must be done to combat the disease that, tragically, beat one of England’s greatest sporting icons.

I can claim to be perfectly equipped to tell the story of Bobby Moore the footballer in this, my 94th book.

I was one of the first journalists ever to interview Bobby when I was a reporter at the Stratford Express, West Ham’s local paper. Bobby was just 16 and featured in a 1957 series I wrote called The Apprentice, long before Alan Sugar came on the scene. I was there as a witness as The Apprentice became The Master of Upton Park.

By the time he reached his peak I was chief football writer on the Daily Express (in the era when it sold 4.2 million copies a day rather than a week), and I can boast that I was the only newspaperman to get into the England dressing room following their 1966 World Cup triumph at Wembley. I managed to hug Bobby and touch the Jules Rimet trophy before being ushered out by Alf Ramsey – who even in that moment of euphoria considered the dressing room private territory.

I was in Mexico at one of the low points of Bobby’s life in 1970 after he had been arrested on a trumped-up jewel theft charge, and – following his ordeal – I watched in awe as his masterly performances during the World Cup helped lift him into the land of footballing legend.

He was a notorious insomniac and, as near neighbours in Essex, we used to pass many nights together sharing our mutual love of boxing at the early-morning closed-circuit broadcasts featuring the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns. When I turned up at one of his book launches with Joe Bugner (who I was then representing), Bobby switched the topic of conversation to boxing and astounded everybody by his in-depth knowledge of the Noble Art. He was equally knowledgeable about cricket and in an earlier era would definitely have been an all-rounder in the style of his boyhood hero, Denis Compton.

After matches at West Ham I would be a member of the exclusive Bobby Moore drinking school at watering holes like the Black Lion in Plaistow and the Moby Dick at Chadwell Heath. There were just two rules: you kept your mouth shut about any out-of-school stories you heard and, just as important, you got a round in.

Amazingly, Bobby survived testicular cancer two years before he collected the World Cup. I was among a small clique of Fleet Street sportswriters who hushed up the fact that he’d had a testicle surgically removed. In those uneducated days people kept secret the curse of cancer as if it was almost something of which to be ashamed.

Covering up a story of such weight today would, quite rightly, get the reporter the sack. But back in the 1960s cancer was a word to be whispered, and euphemistically dismissed with a Les Dawson-style mime as ‘the Big C.’

Can you imagine the hero he would have become had the nation realised the agony and torture he had been through before his World Cup triumph? Knowing that, perhaps you agree with me that his statue at Wembley should be twice as high.

I watched angrily from the sidelines as the football establishment snubbed Bobby after he had hung up his boots. This was at the end of a distinguished career, during which he won 108 England caps while captaining his country a record-equalling 90 times; and in three successive seasons he completed an historic hat-trick of collecting the FA Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and World Cup at Wembley. Those famous 39 steps leading up to the Royal Box were his personal Everest, and he conquered them in 1964, 1965 and then, gloriously, in 1966. Truly a captain marvel.

Bobby shared the record of skippering England most times with Billy Wright, the first player to win 100 England caps and, like Bobby, blond, totally disciplined and immovable in defence. I had the privilege of writing the official biography on Billy – A Hero for All Seasons – and both these footballing icons were blessed with the temperament and tenacity that set them apart as born leaders. Like Bobby, Billy was cut down by the curse of cancer.

On the personal side, I saw Bobby fall in love twice, first of all with Tina who became his first wife when they were like an early edition of Posh and Becks, with lots of media attention and celebrity trappings. Then, with the early energy going out of his marriage, he confided that he had fallen head over heels with an air hostess he had met in South Africa. This was the beautiful, sophisticated Stephanie, who became his second wife and has ensured his name living on with her drive, determination and dedication on behalf of the Bobby Moore Fund.

People might wonder why I have bothered with a Bobby Moore biography when the inestimable Jeff Powell lovingly chiselled such a revealing story of his life immediately following his death.

The difference is that my book is very much the story of Bobby the footballer, with a summary and team line-up for each of his 108 international matches. I am in a better position than most to accurately account for every one of his England games, because in 1975 I collected and collated quotes from Bobby while organising with my then business partner, Peter Lorenzo, a testimonial dinner for Alf Ramsey at London’s Café Royal.

We produced a report on every one of Alf’s games, 100 of which featured the man he called “my captain”. All these years later it is rewarding to be able to resurrect Bobby’s quotes for such a deserving cause as the Bobby Moore Cancer Fund. I know the Great Defender would have fully approved.

Please draw the book, Bobby Moore The Master, to the attention of your readers/listeners/viewers/friends/family, because it may be your life that the research could lead to saving.

Bobby Moore continues to defend.



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