World Cup winner passed away just before Christmas aged 83
George Cohen with another former Fulham player after winning the World Cup. Picture: Fulham FC
January 7, 2023
Fulham football legend and World Cup winner, George Cohen MBE passed away aged 83 just before Christmas leading to a wave of tributes from Fulham fans and the wider community.
A one club man who grew up in Fulham and supported the team as a boy, he was the third surviving member of the 1966 team leaving just Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Bobby Charlton.
His father Harry, who was of Jewish heritage with relations originally from Ukraine, was a gas fitter and his Irish born mother, Catherine was a stores manager at the Lots Road power station.
In his autobiography he told how he would climb a tree outside Craven Cottage to see the team playing including his favourites Bedford Jezzard and Arthur Stevens. In 1956 he started a 13 year playing career that saw him make 459 appearance and was terminated only by injury.
As a right back, he heralded a more attacking style of play for a full back which is now more commonplace in the modern game and this allowed Sir Alf Ramsey to implement innovative tactics that didn’t involve the use of wingers. However, it was only a badly timed injury for Jimmy Armfield, who played in his position which allowed him to cement his place in the team prior to the World Cup.
He features in the iconic picture which shows Ramsey trying to reclaim his shirt, which he had swapped with an Argentine player, after the notorious quarter final. In the semi-final, it was George’s assist that led to Bobby Charlton’s winning goal and he was vice-captain for the final against West Germany.
George Best hailed him as the best full-back he had ever played against and Sir Alf Ramsey said he was England’s greatest right back, a view which was later endorsed by a Channel 4 documentary on the all-time best England XI.
After a brief spell in management, he devoted time to raising money for cancer charities having survived bowel cancer himself and, latterly, raising awareness about the risks of dementia for footballers due to heading the ball. Before every home game at Craven Cottage he hosted lunch in a restaurant named after him.
He lived a mile from Fulham’s Motspur Park training ground with wife Daphne. The couple, who had two sons, recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
It wasn’t until 2000 that he was given an MBE for his role in the final when the six players who had not received honours were finally recognised.
He was granted the freedom of the borough in 2016, shortly before his 77th birthday, following the unveiling of a bronze statue of him at Craven Cottage to mark the 50th anniversary of England’s 1966 World Cup win.
At the dedication of the statue at Craven Cottage, Fulham chairman Shahid Khan called the player “one of the great full backs of his time; beloved beyond measure at the club”.
George was typically self-deprecating as the lifesize bronze, created by sculptor Douglas Jennings, was unveiled. “Are you sure it’s not George Clooney?” he asked, adding that its height on a plinth was “far higher than I used to jump”.
Club captain Tom Cairney said, “I’ve been at Fulham a long time so I’ve had a few conversations with him. What a man.
“He’s one of Fulham’s greatest ever players, a World Cup winner. I think he played every minute of the World Cup as well, and clubs don’t get that very often.
“He was an icon. He came to a lot of our games and, as I said, I got to have a lot of conversations with him.
“It was a sad day for Fulham, but it will be great if we can give him a good send off and the respect he deserves for what he did.”
Fulham's current team pay tribute to George Cohen. Picture: Fulham FC
Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham saud “George Cohen was a Fulham boy – his down-to-earth kindliness never betraying his status as a Fulham FC legend and an England World Cup Champion.
“George campaigned for cancer charities and supported dementia charities. When in 2016, George was rightly given the Freedom of our Borough, he chatted before the ceremony about his humble early years: joking how as a boy when his family moved into Burne Jones House he thought his neighbours were ‘posh’ because they all had shoes. He movingly dedicated much of his acceptance speech to Daphne, his wife.
“George Cohen was a beloved footballing hero from a golden age. He was a lovely man. I know everyone in Hammersmith & Fulham sends our heartfelt condolences to Daphne, his family and friends. RIP George.”
Hundred of fans have already signed the club’s online Book of Condolence and for another week there will still be a chance to sign the physical version in the main Reception on Stevenage Road, from 9:30am – 4:30pm (Monday-Friday) except on match days.
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