George Cohen, one of the last three surviving members of England’s 1966 World Cup final team, has died at the age of 83.
Cohen spent his entire playing career with Fulham, making 459 appearances, and was described by George Best as “the best full-back I ever played against”.
Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in that famous 1966 victory, led the tributes, stating on Twitter: “Very sad to hear my friend and England teammate George Cohen has died. Everyone, without exception, always said that George was such a lovely man. He will be sadly missed, my heartfelt thoughts are with George’s wife Daphne and his family.”
Hurst and Bobby Charlton are now the only players left from the XI that won the final 4-2 against West Germany. George Eastham, Terry Paine and Ian Callaghan are the other members of the England squad from that 1966 campaign left alive.
The right-back and vice-captain in Alf Ramsey’s 1966 team, Cohen won the last of his 37 caps just over a year later. He played in two FA Cup semi-finals and worked for Fulham as a match-day host long after his retirement.
Cohen was famously prevented by Ramsey from swapping shirts with an Argentina player after the ill-tempered quarter-final after which the manager labelled his opponents “animals”. He later revealed he had the photograph on a wall at home. The player eventually sold his winner’s medal, bought by Fulham for £80,000, in 1998 for financial reasons, becoming the first player in the team to do so.
Cohen was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1976 and struggled with the illness for 14 years. He became a campaigner and fundraiser for research into the disease, which claimed the life of his 1966 teammate and captain Bobby Moore, and into dementia, which affected a number of the England team in their later years. Cohen said in 2017 he would be donating his brain for scientific research upon his death.
His nephew Ben Cohen played rugby union for England and also won a World Cup, in 2003.
Fulham paid tribute to their club great, writing 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.”
His contribution to the club was recognised in 2016 when they announced that a statue of him to be situated at Craven Cottage had been commissioned. It was 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.”
The Football Association chair, Debbie Hewitt, said: “We are very sad to hear the news of George Cohen’s death today. George won 37 caps for England and was vice-captain of our World Cup winning team. We would like to pass on our deep condolences to George’s family and friends at this sad time.”
Gary Lineker, England’s leading World Cup finals goalscorer with 10 at the 1986 and 1990 tournaments, paid tribute to Cohen. “Sorry to hear that George Cohen has died. Another of the heroes of the ’66 World Cup winning team leaves us,” the BBC football presenter wrote on Twitter. “He’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP George.”
A tribute posted on the official England Twitter account was simply titled: “Rest in peace George.”
The website article confirmed a full tribute would be paid to Cohen when England host Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifier at Wembley on 26 March next year.