England’s 1966 World Cup-winning right-back George Cohen has died aged 83, his former club Fulham has announced.
Cohen played every minute of the winning campaign at home and earned a total of 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 players – and gentlemen – George Cohen MBE.”
Cohen has spent his entire club career with Fulham, making 459 appearances for his home side.
He began his time at Craven Cottage as a member of the field staff but soon made his mark in the first team, making his debut against Liverpool in March 1957 aged just 17.
Fulham described Cohen as “gifted with tremendous pace”, adding: “He became one of the premier attacking full-backs in the game, setting the tone for how football is so often played today.”
His impressive performances earned him his England debut in May 1964 in 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 1966 World Cup-winning campaign, including the 120 minutes in the 4-2 win over Germany in the final, of 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 team and the England U23s, he continued to work in the real estate and construction sectors.
His contribution to Fulham was recognized in 2016 when they announced that a statue of him at Craven Cottage had been commissioned, and it was unveiled in October of that year.
Cohen said at the time: “I find it absolutely wonderful that they even thought I deserved (a statue), especially since it was alongside Johnny Haynes, the biggest name in the history of Fulham.
“Being by his side was pretty amazing. It was great to think that not only the club but also the supporters wanted to put a statue of me there.”
Cohen was also an activist and fundraiser for cancer research, which claimed the life of 1966 teammate and captain Bobby Moore, and on dementia which affected a number of team members. during their last years.
Cohen said in 2017 that he would donate his brain for scientific research when he died.
But it is for his work on the football pitch that Cohen is best remembered, with legendary Manchester United and Northern Ireland winger George Best calling him “The best fullback I’ve ever played against. never played”.
In 2000, Cohen received an MBE for his services to football alongside four of his 1966 teammates: Roger Hunt, Alan Ball, Ray Wilson and Nobby Stiles.
“We are very sad to hear the news of George Cohen’s death today,” FA chairman Debbie Hewitt said, with the governing body saying England will pay tribute to her at Wembley when she faces Ukraine in a qualifying match for the European Championship on Sunday 26 March.
Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in England’s World Cup final victory, said: “Very sad to hear that my friend and England team-mate George Cohen has passed away.
“Everyone, without exception, has always said that George was a lovely man. He will be greatly missed.”
Gary Lineker added: “Sorry to hear that George Cohen has passed away. Another of the heroes of the 1966 World Cup winning team leaves us. He will always have the immortality of football. RIP George.”
Summing up his impact on the club, Fulham said: “Only Johnny Haynes, Eddie Lowe and Les Barrett have played more games for us than George. He is quite simply Fulham royalty.
“Our hearts go out to Daphne, his beloved wife of over 60 years, his sons Anthony and Andrew, his grandchildren and extended family, and George’s many, many friends.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva also paid tribute to Cohen saying: “It’s a huge loss for us as the Fulham family, as a football club and for English football. A sad day for all of us. I want to send our deepest condolences to his family, and our thoughts are with them at this time.
“His career is one of the greatest stories of this football club, it’s an incredible number of games he has played [for Fulham]. They speak for themselves. I know what he means to the club, he was a really important person – not just when he was playing, but also afterwards.”
“I would like Cohen to play now – no one would take his place”
Cohen’s former England and Fulham team-mate Alan Mullery reflected on his impact during and after his playing days, paying tribute to a “true gentleman” and a “supreme athlete”.
“Nowadays you have quite quick players in defense, but back in the days we were playing there were very few that George couldn’t completely overtake. He was a supreme athlete.
“There weren’t any players like George in those days. At 100 yards he beat anybody. At 15 yards he beat anybody. If he tackled people, he punched them and he beat them. was hitting hard.
“He did half my run! He was going up and down like a yo-yo. That’s why he got into the England squad and won the World Cup in the fullback position.
“I wish we had seen him today because no one 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: “Everyone appreciated that. He had won a medal of World Cup I just wish I had done it myself.
“Fulham must be very grateful that George was there week after week. I don’t think anyone else did that.”
Cohen’s death follows the deaths of a number of his 1966 side teammates in recent years, including Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Jimmy Greaves.
“It’s such a sad time,” Mullery said. “When I think of the team that won the World Cup in 1966, there are only two left, bless them. It’s going to be very difficult to get into the England team in heaven.
“George will never be forgotten. Everyone knew George Cohen and he knew everyone. He was a top professional footballer.”
Cohen was England’s ‘greatest right-back’
sky sports Commentator Martin Tyler highlighted how key Cohen was to England’s World Cup success, saying: “He was so important to the way England played in this World Cup because at the At the start of the tournament, Alf Ramsey tried to play with wingers and kept full-back, but then moved back to a different formation, which made full-backs very important from an attacking perspective.
“As Ramsey said, he was England’s greatest right-back.”
During his playing career, Tyler was coached by Cohen after the World Cup winner’s early retirement and revealed some of the advice he passed on.
“The club I played for in south-west London had a Fulham connection and the manager at the time brought George with him,” Tyler explained. “It was only five or six years after England won the World Cup.
“He gave me some really good advice, some of which I pass on now. George said to me, ‘Treat the ball like the person you love the most in your life. Love the ball and then you can play the game . ‘
“It’s very sad and may I pass on my condolences to Daphne and the family, and to Fulham. He was always there every time we went to Fulham as an ambassador, and he was perfectly suited for that. role. What you saw was what you got from him and he was a great guy to reminisce with.