George Reginald Cohen
MBE (born 22 October 1939) is an English former
professional footballer. He was the right-sided full back for the
England side that won the 1966 World Cup.
He has been inducted into the
English Football Hall of Fame and is the
uncle of rugby union World Cup winner, Ben Cohen.
1 Football career
1.1 1966 World Cup
2 Later life
2.1 Public exposure and popularity
3 Personal life
Cohen spent his entire playing career at Fulham where he proved his
worth as a committed and strong full back, especially adept at
supporting wingers with overlapping runs.
He joined Fulham professionally in 1956 and remained a dependable
performer for 13 years thereafter, though his chances at international
level seemed to be restricted to a handful of caps at under-23 level,
mainly due to the presence of Blackpool's Jimmy Armfield, who was the
regular incumbent at No. 2 and played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.
1966 World Cup
In April 1964, however, Armfield won his 41st cap in an embarrassing
defeat against Scotland at Hampden Park.
Alf Ramsey duly
tried out Cohen for his international debut a month later in a 2–1
win over Uruguay. With Armfield suffering an injury – timed
appallingly with the World Cup imminent – Cohen went on to play in
21 of the next 23 internationals. Armfield managed two more caps in
preparation for the 1966 tournament after regaining his fitness, but
Cohen was Ramsey's first choice by the time the competition, which
England was hosting, got underway.
Cohen was an immaculate performer in Ramsey's revolutionary team which
played without conventional wide men, allowing extra strength in
midfield and relying on young, stamina-based players like Martin
Peters and Alan Ball to drift from centre to flank and back again as
required. When these players were occupied in more central positions,
or chasing high up the flank and needing support, attacking full backs
like Cohen proved their extra worth.
England got through a tough group containing Uruguay, Mexico and
France, Cohen's unfussy performances were rightly seen as just as
vital as the attention-grabbing displays from the likes of Bobby
Charlton. Cohen maintained his form as
England got past a thuggish
Argentina in the last eight, and was unwittingly featured in one of
the more memorable photographs of the tournament in the immediate
aftermath of the game – Ramsey, livid at the Argentinians' violent
approach (he later memorably called them "animals" in a post-match
interview), ran to Cohen in order to prevent him swapping shirts with
one of his opponents.
Three days later, one of Cohen's overlapping runs and clever near-post
passes contributed to Charlton's clincher as the hosts edged past the
splendid, if rather enigmatic, Portugal in the semi finals.
In the final against West Germany, Cohen won his 30th cap as
vice-captain and was his usual immaculate self, though in a game full
of incident and iconic individual contributions, his only notable
moment of the match was managing to block the vicious last minute free
Lothar Emmerich which subsequently found its way across the
England six-yard box for
Wolfgang Weber to stroke home the late
equaliser which forced extra-time.
England ultimately won 4–2.
Cohen played seven of the next eight internationals before Ramsey
decided to utilise some younger full backs in England's campaign for
the 1968 European Championships. Cohen's 37th and final England
appearance came in a 2–0 win over Northern Ireland at Wembley on 22
November 1967. He did not score for his country, though this was not
unexpected for a man in his position. He was the first of England's
1966 XI to cease playing for his country.
Cohen served Fulham until March 1969, not winning any major trophies,
before retiring from playing at the age of 29 due to injury.
Fulham had been relegated to the Second Division the season before he
retired as a player and did not return to the top flight for 33 years.
He ended his career with 459 appearances for the club, a figure
surpassed by only five other players in Fulham's history. It would
have been more but for the injury which forced his retirement before
his 30th birthday. As a full back he also managed to score six League
goals for Fulham. Cohen coached the Fulham youth team and the England
under-23 team for a time, and also managed non-league Tonbridge.
Manchester United's legendary winger
George Best described Cohen as
"the best full back I ever played against".
Alf Ramsey called Cohen
"England's greatest right back". Cohen also bears the distinction of
being the only Fulham player to have won a World Cup winner's medal
while at the Cottagers.
Cohen was awarded the
MBE in 2000, along with four team-mates from
1966 after a campaign from sections of the media who were surprised
that the quintet had never been officially recognised for their part
in England's success. The others were Ball, Wilson,
Nobby Stiles and
In October 2016, a statue of Cohen was unveiled at
Craven Cottage by
Shahid Khan to commemorate their former player and mark
the 50th anniversary of the
England World Cup win. Cohen attended the
ceremony. Hammersmith & Fulham Council announced that it was
making the former footballer a freeman of the borough.
Public exposure and popularity
In a documentary on
Channel 4 to find the greatest
England XI, Cohen
was given the right back spot by the public, ahead of
Phil Neal and
Gary Neville. He was one of four veterans of the 1966 team to make
Cohen published his autobiography in 2003, titled George Cohen: My
Autobiography. (ISBN 9780755313976). Now retired, he is
frequently a guest at functions around the country as well as at
Craven Cottage raising money for cancer charities. He hosts a luncheon
before every home game at
Craven Cottage in the George Cohen
In 2010, Cohen criticized changes to the design of footballs following
the intense criticism of the
Adidas Jabulani used at the 2010 World
Cup. Cohen was quoted: "Designers have constantly tried to create more
goals by using lighter and lighter balls. It was thought they would
fly further and everyone loves to see a 30-yard screamer bend into the
top corner. But things have gone too far."
Despite his surname, Cohen is not Jewish, and neither were either of
his parents. The surname was inherited from a Jewish
great-grandfather. George was raised in the Church of England. He
has been married to his wife Daphne since 1962; they have two sons.
George's nephew Ben Cohen was an English rugby player and Rugby World
Cup winner with
England in 2003.
FIFA World Cup: 1966
FIFA World Cup". FIFA. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
George Cohen Statistics". FIFA. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
1966 FIFA World Cup
1966 FIFA World Cup Final". FIFA. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
England Player Profile: George Cohen". englandfc.com. 2014.
Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 15 June
^ Moore, Matthew; Evans, Martin (18 June 2010). "World Cup 2010:
British university in firing line over Jabulani ball goal drought".
The Daily Telegraph. London.
^ Clavane, Anthony (2012). Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here?: The
Story of English Football's Forgotten Tribe. London: Quercus.
p. link. ISBN 978-0-85738-812-4. George Cohen ... was
lauded by the Jewish, national and international press. ... [H]e
rang up the editor to explain that he was not actually 'of the faith'.
'I have a Jewish great-grandfather,' he said, 'but that's it, really.
Neither my father nor my mother was a Jew. I have always been Church
^ Horvitz, Peter S (2006). The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes .
ISBN 9781561719075. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
1966 FIFA World Cup
1966 FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament
English Football Hall of Fame
R. P. Wilson
England squad –
1966 FIFA World Cup
1966 FIFA World Cup winners (1st title)
5 J. Charlton
6 Moore (c)
9 R. Charlton