Remembering Bobby Moore, a West Ham legend and "the biggest signing in Seattle soccer history"

Editor's Note: Few fans familiar with the history of English soccer don't know the name Bobby Moore, a legendary defender who captained England to the 1966 World Cup and was once dubbed by Pelé as the best defender he'd ever played against. Moore earned 108 caps with England and appeared in an astonishing 544 matches with West Ham United between 1958-74, the most caps in the club's history at the time of his departure.

​Moore left England in the late 1970s and eventually landed with the NASL Seattle Sounders, where he spent one season with the club. In honor of the Sounders' international friendly against West Ham United on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field (7:30 pm PT; JoeTV, KIRO 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360 AM), spoke with original Sounders player Jimmy McAlister, former Director of College Recruiting/color commentator Cliff McCrath and former assistant coach Bobby Howe about Moore and the history between the two clubs. Below is a transcript of that interview, edited for brevity and clarity. What did Moore's signing in 1978 mean for the club both at the time and now looking back?

JM: This is probably the biggest signing in Seattle soccer history, not only for who he was but he was kind of the spokesman for the English game. You bring in Sir Bobby Moore, World Cup champion. He was just an unbelievably smart player, understood the game and read it better than most people. Was always in the right place at the right time without being real quick. When you start talking Bobby Moore, you’re talking soccer royalty.

CM: Arguably he was particularly at that time one of the more special players on the planet. He was the absolute consummate defender but also a nice blend of the, in the 4-4-2 days, a player who could go forward and contribute to the attack.

BH: Certainly his influence has rubbed off on a lot of people at the club and his legacy goes on. He was an outstanding defender. His reading of the game was absolutely superb. He wasn’t very fast, he just read the game so well and his skill was excellent on every level. He led by example on the field. What was he like as a man?

JM: Bobby Moore was a little bit like royalty. A little bit different in how he acted, how he spoke. He reminded me a little bit of Mike England, who was the kind of guy who would come to training in a suit and tie, where most people are wearing shorts and flip flops. It was a different level of how they went about things. He was something – composed, smart, and just a wonderful player. World Cup champion, there’s not much else you can say about that.

CM: Bobby was the quintessential spirit of the game. A leader by example but he was a leader with his wealth and his intellect. He was a shrewd and efficient guy. He wasn’t necessarily a yeller or a cheerleader, but he was just strong and stable in how he played and that made the difference in everybody around him.

BH: He was wonderful to be around. His demeanor off the field and his ability on the field would suggest that he’s probably the best captain that England has ever had. He certainly was an outstanding captain for West Ham United. He was one of those players that’s so good that everybody wanted to be him. The way he dressed, the way he carried himself, he was the player that all the young players at West Ham at that time aspired to be. As men on the inside in different roles, can you each talk about what sort of relationship the Sounders had with West Ham at that time?

JM: There’s a lot of history between the Sounders and West Ham. Bobby Howe was West Ham, Harry Redknapp was West Ham. Bobby Howe was the Head of Education in the United States soccer department for years. Harry Redknapp obviously coached some major football clubs and he came through the Seattle Sounders. Bobby Moore was here; Geoff Hurst was here. The legacy of the Seattle Sounders is deep with some pretty big players.

CM: When Jimmy Gabriel and I went over to recruit players for the early Sounders, our headquarters was Frank Lampard’s bar just outside of West Ham stadium. When you consider Mike England, Mel Machin, John Rowlands, Davies, Buttle, Harry Redknapp, those guys were all joined at the hip in terms of the spirit of the game at the time. Harry had a magnetic spirit that drew people and I think that became one of the ways it was the underground tunnel from London to Seattle that brought a lot of those great players.

BH: In 1977, Jimmy became the head coach of the Seattle Sounders because the then head coach John Best moved to Vancouver Whitecaps as a GM. And because of Jimmy’s relationship with Harry [Redknapp] and I, he asked us if we would like to come over to become his assistants with the Sounders. I came over on a full time basis and worked not only during the season but worked a lot in the offseason doing player clinics and all those sorts of things that you do to promote your club during an offseason. But Harry would always go back in the close season here which was the season in Europe of course and Harry’s job was to recruit players to come to the club. So a lot of the players who came over from England in particular, Harry had first contacted those players and that’s how we got Bobby Moore over here, and etc. Jimmy and Bobby, you guys both played with Geoff Hurst, what was that like?

JM: Geoff Hurst scored a hat trick in a World Cup final, which I don’t know if anybody can say that. He had what you don’t see in players anymore; he was an old fashioned center forward. He wasn’t a dribbler or a dasher. He was very good at making runs and holding the ball up. He was strong, good in the air, and he could score goals for you.

BH: Geoff was a fantastic player. He had been playing in midfield for West Ham and then the manager put him up front and it was a revelation. He did so well that he ended up playing for his country up front and scored lots of goals. Geoff played in a World Cup final and scored a hat trick so you can imagine how his confidence was at that time. He was a great person to get on with and a great person to play with. Finally, any stories or memories of Bobby Moore that stand out to you?

JM: The first time I ever played with him, I had the ball looking to play it wide and I got it wrong. I was trying to bypass him to another player and I proceeded to hit him square in the face from about three yards. And he looked at me and said, “Holy cow mate, this is going to be a long year,” And that was my introduction.

CM: I actually scrimmaged with the Sounders on occasion and I remember one time making a pass that was no more than three feet, and he [Bobby] gave it back to me and when the defender’s head turned I gave it to the guy behind him and he said, “Cliff, where did you learn your football?” And I said, “From you!” Their means of expression seemed to have a kindness to it and made you feel like you were part of the troop, that you could lace up and go out with them.

BH: One thing he said that I think is really interesting is that if you’re a manger or a coach, understand that everybody needs a “Well done,” every now and again. He would say that it doesn’t matter who you are, everybody needs somebody to say “Well done” to them, and that struck me as being very important. Sometimes when you’re in leadership positions like that you take things for granted and as a manager or a coach you can’t take that for granted, because everybody needs a pat on the back. You could be the captain of a World Cup winning team but you still need a pat on the back.



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