It would take a very hard-hearted soul not to well up a little upon seeing stalwart football commentator Jonathan Pearce recount, with tears in his eyes and half-time orange-sized lump in his throat, the last words he ever exchanged with the late, great Bobby Moore. Fans across the country may have endured half a century of hurt, the anguish of critical red cards and missed penalties, but Bobby tells the astronomical highs and many lows of a shy East End lad who knew the true meaning of fame through hard graft, and reaped both its rewards and ill-effects. Unlike the treatment he would receive at the hands of the FA – not to mention his beloved West Ham – later in his career, Ron Scapello’s loving biopic is a respectful and fitting tribute to the only Englishman to ever lift the Jules Rimet trophy.
Like a good solid four-four-two, it’s all fairly conventional documentary fare – a blend of vibrant colour shots, black and white archive footage, talking heads and flickering super-8 home video – but in oscillating around that now mythical 1966 summer day, to trials and tribulations before and since, Bobby paints a greater picture than mere eulogy. Moving personal testimony comes from Moore’s family; his first wife, Tina, recalls their meeting, his diagnosis with testicular cancer in 1964 and the devastating psychological effects it caused, not least crippling insomnia, before dogged determination would see the irrepressible centre back return to form and lead England to World Cup glory on home soil. Scapegoated for failures of the mid-70s and rejected for the calibre of professional post due to him, depression led to marital breakdown and a bitter marginalisation from the limelight his playing days so richly deserved.
There is, however, a fair amount of adulation, and rightly so. Former teammates Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks, Harry Redknapp, Gazza, and even Russell Brand, among others, all wax lyrical about what a top bloke old “Moore-o” was and it’s hard to disagree with them. “The aura of a prince, a proper hero,” is not undue praise for a player whose composed presence, on and off the pitch, draw plaudits from none other than Pele in light of that famous game against Brazil at the 1970 tournament – the one with that tackle and that save from Banks. An embrace at the final whistle, forever preserved in the beautiful game’s photographic history, marks arguably the best ever post-match exchange of shirts. No matter what anyone says, it’s never just a game. And Bobby Moore wasn’t just the lucky chap to captain his country to World Cup victory. An officer and a gentleman on and off the pitch, whose like we may never see again, Bobby is indispensable nostalgia for lovers of the beautiful game.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens