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Brian Belton

Young Bobby - The Making of England's Greatest Captain. Volume 1

Young Bobby - The Making of England's Greatest Captain. Volume 1

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ISBN - 9781780916323

eISBN - 9781781563328 (available at Amazon)

First published - December 2022

Brian Belton, a lifelong West Ham fan from the late 1950s on, has fulfilled a decades-long ambition to write a biography of Bobby Moore, but this, the first of his two books that embrace this task, is both something more and less than that.

Brian concentrates on Moore’s life before the ‘glory years’ that encompassed what are usually depicted as his greatest triumphs; the Bobby that is often close to overlooked or even forgotten. However, that alone isn’t enough reason to undertake what is an exhaustive endeavour. Why look at the days of struggle and doubt, when the focus on the ‘glittering prizes’ is what we are inclined to want to relive, reiterate and celebrate – why ‘go back to basics?’

Well, firstly, many dozens of books and millions of words have been written about Moore. Film and television, drama, biography and documentary have portrayed the now well-known ‘legend’ that is England’s Golden Haired hero. But, exactly how did the storied paladin emerge? His life, prior to the mid-1960s, has been, for the most part, almost a footnote, or something that sometimes feels like it is a necessity that needs to be got out of the way as succinctly as possible.

This being the case, for Belton, someone who has spent a lifetime working with young people and their communities, studying and teaching child psychology and development, all of this material, even collectively, at best tells us only part of the story, and at worse constitutes a construct of a fable, akin to an idealised statue or a protracted homily to a fallen idol.

When the boy Moore first came to football, he was a tubby kid who didn’t know what his left foot was for. He couldn’t tackle and seemed unable to head a ball. His lack of pace meant, at top speed, he did little more than lurch around the pitch at what was a relative amble. He seemed to have nothing much going for him, and less to offer the game. But what Bobby did have was a good brain and a determination of mind. He was also possessed of a seemingly indomitable spirit. Out of this blossomed a personality and an imagination that allowed him to turn each of his apparent weaknesses into strengths. How and why did all that happen – where did it come from?

Well, there was a series of feats, wrought out of a lot of small victories, and a few big defeats, and it is these that define Bobby Moore as a person and an immortal of his chosen sport. But in reality, it is only in the years from his coming into the world to the early-1960s, including the times characterised by hard work and trepidation, where we might find the kernel, level and meaning of Moore’s accomplishments.

Given this, calling on the memories and insights of supporters, scouts, Moore’s managers, coaches, friends and former players who lined up with him from his earliest years in the game, Brian has presented the part of Moore’s life wherein he ‘built himself’, making the template on which the greatest defender football has known was ‘constructed’… from scratch. He looks at the influences and context out of which the boy was (literally) shaped. This necessarily includes dipping a toe into the realms of individual and social child psychology, as well as the wider impacts of war, austerity, education and class that effected his life and all our lives.

This said, although a respected academic and author in a number of fields, throughout, Belton remains an East Londoner, and a Hammer. He mediates the journey he invites you to accompany him on in his language. At times this is a challenging expedition, but also a colourful and, at points, a funny, sad, romantic, stirring and hopefully informative one. Along the way, Brian ‘walks’ with Bob, sharing the intersections of his own life experience, growing up in East London in the warm shadow of Boleyn Ground, with the path the youthful Moore followed. This brings a personal understanding of the setting or stage on which Moore moved from child to adult.

With a foreword from ex-Hammer player and manager, Alan Curbishley, this first book covers the years from the day in 1941 little Robert first saw the light of day until his first league game, facing Manchester United, in 1958. This includes West Ham’s promotion to the top-flight of the English game, after decades in the wilderness.

Brian presents a complex and intriguing exploration and analysis of the process of growth, development, an exhaustive portrait is of the child, the boy and the young man, more than the myth of a footballing saint. But it was the child, his context and character, who made the myth possible.

Stories and facts about Bobby

The list of England captains in terms of numbers of caps is headed by Billy Wright and Bobby Moore; both led England 90 times. Steph Houghton captained the England Women's side on 72 occasions, the only player so far to come close to Wright and Moore in this respect.

Wright served as captain in 70 consecutive England matches during the 1950s. Bryan Robson, who led England 66 times, along with Wright, Moore and Hounghton are (at the time of writing) the only players to lead England more than 60 times (Harry Kane, who has skippered England 58 times to date will likely soon join the '60+ Club')

"Of all the defenders I have challenged, Bobby Moore was the fairest, the best and the most honourable." No one can say fairer than that. Probably ever."
Pele - Santos and Brazil

About the Author

Like so many West Ham supporters Brian Belton was born only five minutes walk from the club ('I heard 'em cheering in me cradle'). As a teenager Brian worked primarily to support his habit of following West Ham around England.

In his twenties the Mayflower Centre shanghaied him to work with young people in the Canning Town area. Brian was now a youth worker and eventually was persuaded/ bullied/ bribed into taking a professional qualification with the YMCA College in London.

He gained a degree at City University and then became a Senior Youth and Community worker in Islington, whilst gaining a Masters Degree at Essex. He has published over 50 books, mainly on football.

For more information on Brian Belton please see his "About our Authors" page

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