West Ham legend Geoff Hurst is about to make his acting debut in Danny Donnelly’s new urban football action thriller Payback Season, playing the Agent (Adam Avely) to Adam Deacon’s Jerome. Jerome is a Premier League player from an East End estate who enters a a physical and financial nightmare when he finds himself indebted to his old estate crew during the most important season of his life.
The chance to interview Geoff brought grunts (read: squeals) of excitement, and preparation for said interview mainly consisted of working out how long I would leave it before talking about that game. But before that we had to discuss the film.
How did the opportunity to work on Payback Season come about?
Well, it came about because Danny [Donnelly- writer/director of Payback Season] asked me cos he’s a West Ham fan. His great-grandad must have seen me play! People said why’d you do it and I said because I’d love to. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought. It’s been great.
Have you done any acting before?
I did a deodorant advert back in the 60s, but that’s about it. So it was a little nerve-wracking but once I got into it I had a really good day.
How do you think you have got on?
Well I forgot my lines a few times, but I never took too many takes. I’m not sure what the (adapts woofty voice and smug face) critics will make of me of course! Obviously, things have changed at home, and I’ve started to refuse to fill the dishwasher: (adopts the voice again) "I’m a movie star now, I couldn’t possibly do that…"
I’m joking of course
Did you draw on any of your experience of agents for the role?
No, not at all. I never had one.
Really? That’s pretty much knocked out my next line of questioning.
We just didn’t have them. I represented myself. The only person who had one was Bobby Moore- he had an agent who worked at the club who looked after his stuff, but apart from that no-one did really. I renegotiated a 6 year contract after the World Cup. I actually went from being a West Ham player, to an international player to a World Cup winner very quickly, and my contract jumped from 40 quid a week, to 90, to 140, which I negotiated all by myself.
You can’t imagine that now.
No you can’t, and quite rightly. The amount of money involved contractually nowadays means you need to get a solicitor involved.
Do agents have too much influence?
You’ve got to be careful with stuff like this- in any industry most people are pretty good and you get 1 or 2 that aren’t. In terms of advising, I think agents have to help players beyond just their football careers.
So players need more general life-guidance?
Yes, exactly, and they need to but provide guidance and knowledge about what is not just a short career but their entire lives. For instance, they could advise a player not to leave a club in difficult circumstances, or at the wrong time, because these sort of things can continue to affect you beyond your career.
Aren’t we seeing clubs take on more responsibility for players in general nowadays? For instance, I read recently about Manchester City privately educating all their youngsters that come on from 14-16.
Well they have a responsibility because there are so many kids coming into the game that there is always going to be a big fallout, and they recognise this more and more. The big danger now is that when you join a club at that age you get used to everybody doing everything for you- ‘get me a coffee, do this, do that.’ They aren’t self-reliant.
I’m surprised that isn’t what it’s a bit like for you though.
I’ve never been like that, I’m self-reliant. But then I haven’t grown up with that . When we go to special functions sometimes I get asked if I want a bodyguard or someone to carry my bag but I say no ‘cos I haven’t grown up around that culture. If I had I’m sure I would have been different.
Do you think living that life as a youngster makes it harder for kids that don’t make it?
It must be very difficult. It was very different in my era. I mean, it’s the same in that once you hit 35 you hit a brick wall. But nowadays, the world they live in is so unreal, how do you go back to the real world? Also, players get used to earning a lot of money and living the lifestyles that come with those levels of earning. Most players are well advised, but there will always be players who aren’t and get into trouble.
The film seems very reflective of modern issues, of the massive differences between the ‘normal’ world and the football world, and the problems that can come when people who have a bad background or come from somewhere without the right familial structure, enter the football world. The recent case of Ravel Morrison comes to mind.
I think there are elements of really strong truth about the film. When they first came to me with the idea I thought it could easily happen. If he’s brought up in a bad family or a tough areas things can happen that will really affect his football career and his life. A lot of kids come from deprived backgrounds and change; unfortunately some can’t get out of it.
How important is the family unit to footballers?
It’s always been important, but I think even more so now. If you come from a good, strong family they’ll teach you how to deal with stuff in the right way, no matter how much money you make or how famous you become. Being a grandparent has made me realise just how important family is, and discipline. I’m not saying that I smack my grankids about or anything, mind...
You came to something like pretty instant fame after the World Cup. Did you find jealousy amongst anyone?
Not really, most people were just so pleased that we’d won it! Every now and again you meet someone with some attitude but I can spot them straight away now. I used to try and talk them round and proclaim that I'm just a normal bloke or whatever but I don’t bother now. It’s not worth it.
At this point the PR enters saying I have to wrap up, and I realise I’ve been so ensconced in having this really rather nice conversation with someone that scored a hat-trick for England in a World Cup Final, that I haven’t asked one direct question about that game. I panic, and instead of firing out a scattergun of questions with one-word answers that Geoff’s answered a million times but everyone still wants to know about, I embark on a long ill-timed monologue where I try to elucidate how I feel it must be for him, and how for a generation (or 2 or 3), that moment he and his teammates have from then is an aspirational dream- I actually use the word ‘dreamy’- something that seems a million miles away from where we are now. Yet every 4 years we convince ourselves we are a whisker and a well-placed penalty kick away from the glory that he and the country felt; a glory that, to some extent, he must feel every day of his life. That’s right isn’t it Geoff? I ask. Isn’t it?
Payback Season is released on 9th March. It's website is HERE
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