England World Cup winner George Cohen has died, aged 83.
The right-back played every minute of the six matches in the 1966 tournament and was vice-captain for the 4-2 win over West Germany in the Wembley final.
Cohen, who spent his entire club career with Fulham, won 37 caps for England.
“Very sad to hear my friend and England team-mate has died,” said Sir Geoff Hurst, who is one of the two surviving members of the XI that started the final, along with Sir Bobby Charlton.
“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 added on Twitter.
Fulham, who announced Cohen’s death, said: “Everyone at Fulham Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our greatest ever players – and gentlemen.
“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.”
Cohen featured in every game of England’s successful World Cup campaign.
He was awarded the MBE in 2000, one of five players from the 1966 side to be belatedly honoured, following a media campaign to recognise their achievement alongside that of their peers.
In a 13-year playing career at Fulham, from 1956 to 1969, Cohen made 459 appearances for the club.
In October 2016, a statue of Cohen was unveiled at Craven Cottage to commemorate their former player and mark the 50th anniversary of the World Cup win. Fulham have also named a section of their hospitality facilities after him.
His World Cup medal is on display at the stadium, with the club having bought it for £80,000 in 1998.
Alf Ramsey, who managed the 1966 England side, called Cohen the country’s “greatest right-back”, while Manchester United’s legendary winger George Best described him as “the best full back I ever played against”.
After his playing career, which was ended before his 30th birthday by a knee injury, he coached Fulham’s youth team and had a spell managing non-league side Tonbridge.
Cohen was given the freedom of Hammersmith and Fulham in 2016 for his footballing achievements and his campaigning for more research into cancer and dementia.
He was vocal in his demands for a public enquiry into dementia in football after a study revealed that ex-players were more than three times as likely to suffer from the condition as the general population.
His nephew, Ben Cohen, won the Rugby World Cup with England in 2003.
Football world pays tribute
Tributes have flooded in on social media and beyond.
Cohen’s former Fulham team-mate Alan Mullery told BBC 5 Live: “I’ve just got a kick in the teeth; he’s not been well for some time now. George had a wonderful life, he’s got a wonderful family and he was a terrific player to play with.”
Former England player Gary Lineker wrote: “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.”
Ian Callaghan, George Eastham and Terry Paine are the three other surviving players from England’s 22-man squad selected for the 1966 World Cup finals.
Fulham manager Marco Silva said: “It is a huge loss for Fulham, for English football. As manager, I want to send our condolences to his family.
“He is one of the biggest examples in the club’s history, the numbers he reached speak for themselves. I know what he represents; he is really important for the club and it is a sad day for us.”
The widow of England’s World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, Stephanie, said: “George was a close friend of Bobby’s and he himself had bowel cancer in the mid-1970s, but made a full recovery.
“George was a loyal supporter of the Bobby Moore Fund and will be sadly missed by us all. We send our sincere condolences to Daphne and all the family.”
The Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt said: “We are very sad to hear the news of George Cohen’s death today.
“We would like to pass on our deep condolences to George’s family and friends at this sad time.”
Everton manager Frank Lampard said: “I always was drawn to that group of players [1966 World Cup squad] and it is always more than a shame when we lose one of those players.”