In March 1974, Fulham pulled off one of the most impressive pieces of transfer business in our history when World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore was convinced to swap a claret and blue shirt in East London for a white one in the South-West of the capital.
With a record (at the time) 108 caps for his country – 90 as captain – and having made the best part of 650 appearances for West Ham United, Moore was approached by his former England teammate and good friend Alan Mullery, who had been sent by Manager Alec Stock to Upton Park on a mission to bring Moore back with him.
“I signed him – can anybody believe that?” Mullery told fulhamfc.com at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of Moore’s death in February. “I said to him ‘why don’t you come for the last two or three years of your career. Come and enjoy it – we’ve got some good players and they’d love to have you.’
“Everybody knew Bobby Moore and the player he was and, consequently, he came. I played two years with him before leaving in ‘76, and then [George] Bestie and [Rodney] Marshy arrived, so it was the three geniuses at the Football Club!”
The number four was symbolic when our new centre-back made his debut for the Club: it was the number he wore on his back, and it was also the amount of goals we conceded in a comprehensive home defeat by Middlesbrough. He would sport eight and 10 as well in the 1974/75 season, before wearing his famous number six shirt for the first time in a 2-0 win away to Crystal Palace on the 16th April 1974. From then until he left, the number six jersey at Fulham was his and his alone.
It’s no coincidence that his first full season at the Club is one of our most memorable and historic, as the Whites reached the FA Cup Final for the first time. We did it in typically Fulhamish fashion too, playing a record 11 times en route to Wembley Stadium, with Moore starting each game.
Poetically, the opponents for the Final were Moore’s former employers from the Boleyn Ground. The Hammers were a division above us but we went into the match with little fear having knocked them out of the League Cup earlier in the season, while top flight sides Everton and Birmingham City had proven beatable in the FA Cup Fifth Round and Semi-Final, respectively.
Moore played admirably in front of those 100,000 spectators on the 3rd of May, but the team unfortunately failed to match the performances that had seen them reach the Final in the first place, as a quickfire Alan Taylor brace saw Fulham dreams dashed. It was to be Moore’s final appearance at the famous stadium – one where he led England out as captain on numerous occasions.
There was 11-game period at the end of the 1975/76 season and beginning of 76/77 where he was absent owing to a loan spell at American team San Antonio Thunder. That spell aside, though, Moore was an ever-present in the Fulham team following the Cup Final and ended his Whites career with a fine appearance total of 150. He paraded the Jules Rimet trophy prior to his final game at Craven Cottage (a 6-0 rout of Leyton Orient) before bowing out in a 1-0 defeat away to Blackburn Rovers a week later.
Les Strong played alongside him in the Fulham defence throughout his time at the Club, and the former left-back admitted it was a privilege to work with, and learn from, Moore.
“For me, he was the best,” Strong said. “I was only a young lad, 21, and the small amount of success that I had was all down to Bobby, I feel. Just to see him at the Club was fantastic.
“Technically, as a full-back, you shouldn’t be too far advanced of the centre-half, but with Bob I’d be on the halfway line, he’d knock me one ball and I’d be an attacking player. People would say that I was a fantastic attacking full-back, but once he left I don’t think I went over the halfway line!
“It was fantastic to play with him and it was a real pleasure. He was well known to be a really immaculate person – you’d walk into his wardrobe and everything would be pristine, so I just used to get his shirts and tie them in knots, tie his shoelaces together and knock his pennies over, and it used to drive him mad!”
After leaving Fulham, Moore went on to play a handful of games in America and then Denmark, before spells managing Oxford United, Hong Kong outfit Eastern AA, and Southend United. He would later work as a pundit and journalist, before his untimely death from cancer in February 1993.
- Number seven on our list of Fulham's Top 50 Moments will be published on July 19th