Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Martin Peters (22)

We continue our countdown of the 50 greatest English players with one of only two Englishmen to score in a World Cup final....
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence
No.29 - Ted Drake
No.28 - Michael Owen
No.27 - Raich Carter
No.26 - Colin Bell
No.25 – Frank Swift
No.24 - Paul Scholes
No.23 - Tony Adams


Martin Stanford PETERS


London, England


67caps, 20 goals


West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, Sheffield United

Martin Peters, like his West Ham team-mate Geoff Hurst, was a player who emerged almost from nowhere to take his place as a member of the 1966 World Cup squad. A man whom national boss Alf Ramsey described as being "ten years ahead of his time", the midfielder with a wand of a left foot and uncanny ability to arrive in the penalty area at just the right time was another perfectly fitted cog in Ramsey's 'Wingless Wonders' machine, complementing the talents of Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball in the side's three man midfield.

Peters had come through the ranks at West Ham after joining the club as an apprentice in 1959, making his senior debut in 1962 against Cardiff City. He was in and out of a strong line-up over the next two years, before nailing down a place in 1965 - the year in which the Hammers claimed the European Cup Winners' Cup with victory over 1860 Munich at Wembley.

Peters became a Hammers regular, and found consolation for being a beaten finalist in the 1966 League Cup final with selection for the World Cup squad, somewhat surprisingly, since Ramsey had only handed him his debut in May of that year, against Yugoslavia. Peters impressed in another two friendlies and made his World Cup bow in England's second game of the tournament against Mexico, after a drab goalless draw in the side's opener against Uruguay prompted Ramsey into changes.

Functioning as a left-sided central midfielder for England, Peters could have played in any position, and, indeed, did so for West Ham, making him an Englishman who would have fitted in well with the Dutch philosophy of 'Total Football', which followed in the early 1970s. His selfless team-work and skill meant that he kept his place in the side right the way up until the final, when he scored to put England into a 2-1 lead.


"I know I had my mouth open, but nothing came out. I was literally speechless with joy," he later recalled of the career defining moment.

That joy against the Germans was not to be repeated four years later in the heat of Mexico, when England faced their old enemy once more, this time in the quarter-finals. Peters had scored one as the English looked comfortable at 2-0, and then Alf Ramsey substituted him for the first time in his career.

"I'm saving you for the semi-final," Ramsey reportedly declared. The Germans fought back to win 3-2, and Ramsey later privately acknowledged he'd made a mistake.


Scoring in the World Cup final
Peters' international career effectively came to an end in England's next, ultimately doomed, World Cup campaign, when Poland prevented them qualifying by recording an unlikely 1-1 draw at Wembley in 1973. It was Peters' 63rd cap, and although he would win four more, the glory days with his national side were well and truly over. His international days finally ended with a 2-0 defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park.

Domestically, the 1970s had begun with Peters leaving West Ham and moving across London to Tottenham Hotspur for £200,000.

He stayed with Spurs until 1975, winning the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 (the latter as skipper), and the UEFA Cup in 1972, before joining Norwich City.

He played over 200 games for the Canaries, winning their Player of the Year award twice, in 1976 and 1977, before ending his lengthy and largely injury-free career in Yorkshire with Sheffield United, where, as player-manager, he oversaw the club's relegation into the Fourth Division in 1981.

He soon resigned, and, despite playing some amateur football, the career of one of England's most versatile players was over. He had racked up 882 senior appearances, scoring 220 goals - a fantastic ratio for a midfielder.

He went on to work in the less glamorous environment of the insurance industry, but his true genius is perhaps best summed up by the great Bobby Moore, his team-mate at West Ham and England, who said, "People didn't notice him because he played so many perfect first-time balls – the kind of passes that others would deliver after taking a touch. A great, great player."


European Cup Winners' Cup 1965
World Cup 1966
UEFA Cup 1972
League Cup 1971, 1973

...Peters was nicknamed 'The Ghost' for his deadly ability to drift unnoticed past defenders into the box.

Zack Wilson, Goal.com

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