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Top 20 England players of all time - #17

Sports Mole's countdown of the top 20 England players of all time continues with number 17 - Geoff Hurst.

Geoff Hurst (49 caps, 24 goals)

Geoff Hurst poses for a photo in 1966© Getty Images

Geoff Hurst holds a privileged and exclusive place in world football as the only man to have ever scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final, and his heroics on July 30, 1966 have earned him the undying adoration of England fans everywhere.

Hurst's story is perhaps the best example of how a stroke of luck can change everything in a game like football, though. The West Ham United man was very much behind the prolific Jimmy Greaves in Sir Alf Ramsey's pecking order for the 1966 tournament, and only got his chance alongside Roger Hunt due to an injury for England's main marksman.

A nasty cut to Greaves's leg saw Hurst selected for the quarter-final against Argentina and he scored the only goal of the game to fire the hosts into the last four, where he set up what proved to be the winning goal in a 2-1 triumph over Portugal.

Greaves was back fit and available for the final, but Ramsey made the difficult decision to leave one of the greatest goalscorers English football has ever seen on the bench and keep faith with Hurst. It is safe to say that decision was vindicated, with Hurst going on to score the opening goal in the final before his brace in extra time sealed the Jules Rimet trophy for Ramsey's home heroes.

Unsurprisingly, that proved to be the peak of Hurst's international career and, while he went on to feature at Euro 1968 and the 1970 World Cup, he was in and out of the team before playing his 49th and final England game in 1972, by which point he had scored 24 goals for his country.

At club level, Hurst was part of the West Ham trio alongside Bobby Moore and Martin Peters that enjoyed Wembley glory three years in a row, helping the Hammers to the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1965 before their crowning achievement a year later.

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