England World Cup winner and Fulham legend Cohen dies aged 83

England World Cup winner and Fulham legend Cohen dies aged 83

George Cohen, the right-back in England’s World Cup-winning team of 1966, has
died aged 83, his former club Fulham have announced.

Cohen played every minute of the victorious campaign on home soil and in total won 37 caps for his country.

Fulham wrote on the club’s official Twitter account: “Everyone at Fulham Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our greatest ever players – and gentlemen – George Cohen MBE.”

Cohen spent his entire club career with Fulham, making 459 appearances for his hometown side.

Library file dated 29/6/66 of former England full-back George Cohen during his days at Fulham Football Club. Cohen was still in posession of his 1966 World Cup winner's medal today (Saturday) after it failed to reach its reserve price at Christie's Auction House in Scotland. The gold medal from England's famous game against West Germany at Wembley had been expected to sell for up to 80,000. But bids from the floor of Christie's Glasgow auction rooms reached only 55,000 when the hammer went down.

Image:
George Cohen’s playing career was ended by a serious knee injury at just 29

He began his time at Craven Cottage as a member of the grounds staff but quickly made his mark in the first team, with a debut against Liverpool in March 1957, coming at the age of just 17.

Fulham described Cohen as being “blessed with terrific pace,” adding: “He became one of the game’s first attacking full-backs, setting the tone for how football is so often played today.”

His impressive performances earned him an England debut in May 1964 during a 2-1 win over Uruguay at Wembley.

Cohen established himself as his country’s first-choice right-back and played every minute of England’s victorious 1966 World Cup campaign, including all 120 minutes of the 4-2 win over Germany in the final, for which he was the vice-captain.

Cohen was forced to retire at the age of 29 due to a knee injury and, after working as a coach with Fulham’s youth side and the England U23s, went on to work in the property and building sectors.

His contribution to Fulham was recognised in 2016 when they announced a statue of him at Craven Cottage had been commissioned, with it being unveiled in October of that year.

Cohen said at the time: “I find it absolutely wonderful that they even thought I was worthy of (a statue), especially as it was alongside Johnny Haynes, the greatest name in Fulham’s history.

“To be alongside him, it was rather unbelievable. It was great to think that not only the club but the supporters had wanted to put a statue of me there.”

Cohen was also a campaigner and fundraiser for research into cancer, which claimed the life of his 1966 team-mate and captain Bobby Moore, and into dementia which, affected a number of the team in their later years.

Cohen said in 2017 he would be donating his brain for scientific research upon his death.

But it is for his work on the football field that Cohen is most often remembered, with legendary Manchester United and Northern Ireland winger George Best calling him, “The best full-back I ever played against.”

In 2000, Cohen was awarded an MBE for services to football alongside four of his team-mates from the 1966 side: Roger Hunt, Alan Ball, Ray Wilson and Nobby Stiles.

“We are very sad to hear the news of George Cohen’s death today,” said FA chair Debbie Hewitt, with the governing body saying England will pay tribute to him at Wembley when they play Ukraine in a European Championship qualifier on Sunday March 26.

Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in England’s World Cup final win, said: “Very sad to hear my friend and England team-mate George Cohen has died.

“Everyone, without exception, always said that George was such a lovely man. He will be sadly missed.”

Gary Lineker added: “Sorry to hear that George Cohen has died. Another of the heroes of the ’66 World Cup-winning team leaves us. He’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP George.”

Summing up his impact on the club, Fulham said: “Only Johnny Haynes, Eddie Lowe and Les Barrett played more games for us than George. He is, quite simply, Fulham royalty.

“All of our thoughts are with Daphne, his beloved wife of more than 60 years, sons Anthony and Andrew, his grandchildren and extended family, as well as George’s many, many friends.”

Fulham boss Marco Silva also paid tribute to Cohen, saying: “It’s a huge loss for us as a Fulham family, as a football club and for English football. A sad day for all of us. I want to send all our condolences to his family, and all our thoughts are with them right now.

“His career is one of the biggest stories of this football club, it’s an unbelievable number of games he played [for Fulham]. They speak for themselves. I know what he represents for the club, he was a really important person – not just when he was playing, but after that too.”

‘I wish Cohen was playing now – no one would take his place’

Cohen’s former England and Fulham team-mate Alan Mullery reflected on his impact both during and after his playing days, paying tribute to a “proper gentleman” and “supreme athlete”.

“In the modern day, you have fairly quick players playing defence, but in the days when we were playing, there were very few that George couldn’t completely outrun. He was a supreme athlete.

“There weren’t players like George in those days. Over 100 yards, he’d beat anybody. Over 15 yards, he’d beat anybody. If he tackled people, he hit them and he hit them hard.

“He did half of my running! He was up and down like a yo-yo. That’s why he got in the England team and won the World Cup. He’d bomb up and down that line and be crossing balls from the full-back position.

“I wished we’d have seen him today because nobody would have taken his place.”

As well as pursuing a successful business career, Cohen also returned to Fulham as an ambassador and matchday host after his playing days, with Mullery saying: “Everybody appreciated that. He’d won a World Cup medal. I only wish I’d done it myself.

“Fulham must be very grateful that George had been there, week after week. I don’t think anybody else has done that.”

Cohen’s death follows the passing of a number of his team-mates from the 1966 side in recent years, including Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Jimmy Greaves.

“It’s such a sad time,” said Mullery. “When I think of the team that won the World Cup in ’66, there’s only two left them, bless them. It’s going to be very difficult to get in the England side up in heaven.

“George will never be forgotten. Everybody knew George Cohen and he knew everybody. He was a top professional footballer.”

Cohen was England’s ‘greatest right-back’

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Martin Tyler paid tribute to World Cup winner George Cohen, who has died at the age of 83

Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler highlighted how key Cohen was to England’s World Cup success, saying: “He was so important to how England played in that World Cup because, at the start of the tournament, Alf Ramsey did try playing with wingers and kept the full-backs back, but then he went back into a different formation which made the full-backs really important from an attacking sense.

“As Ramsey said, he was the greatest England right-back.”

During his playing career, Tyler was coached by Cohen following the World Cup winner’s early retirement, and revealed some of the advice he passed on.

“The club I was playing for in south-west London had a connection with Fulham and the coach at the time brought George along,” Tyler explained. “This was only five or six years after England had won the World Cup.

“He gave me some very good advice, some of which I pass on now. George told me: ‘Treat the ball like the person you love most in your life. Love the ball and then you’ll be able to play the game.’

“It’s very sad and may I pass on my sympathies to Daphne and the family, and to Fulham as well. He was always there whenever we went to Fulham as an ambassador, and he was perfectly suited to that role. What you saw was what you got from him and he was a great guy to reminisce with.

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