Martin Stanford Peters MBE (born 8 November 1943) is an English former footballer and manager and a member of the England team which won the 1966 FIFA World Cup as well as playing in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Born in Plaistow, Essex, he played club football for West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City and Sheffield United. He briefly managed Sheffield United before retiring from professional football in 1981.
Known as "the complete midfielder" as he could pass the ball well with either foot, was good in the air and difficult to mark because of his movement. A free kick specialist, Peters was described by England manager Sir Alf Ramsey, after a game against Scotland in 1968, as being "ten years ahead of his time". His versatility was such that while he was at West Ham he played in every position in the team, including goalkeeper in his third game, replacing an injured Brian Rhodes. With his transfer from West Ham United to Tottenham Hotspur in 1970, he became Britain's first £200,000 footballer.
Under manager Ted Fenton, Peters came through the productive ranks at West Ham United after signing as an apprentice in 1959. He made his debut on Good Friday 1962 in a 4–1 home win against Cardiff City. He scored his first goal for West Ham in a 6–1 away win at Manchester City on 8 September 1962.
Peters played only five games in his first season with West Ham and although he played 32 league games in season 1963–4 he played no part in their FA Cup run and was not selected for the FA Cup final of 1964 at Wembley, in which West Ham beat Preston North End 3–2. The following year, however, he established himself as a first team regular and was victorious at Wembley when West Ham won the European Cup Winners Cup with victory over 1860 Munich. He was usually partnered in midfield by Eddie Bovington and Ronnie Boyce.
Peters began to impose himself on West Ham's game, and another chance for silverware came in 1966 when West Ham reached the League Cup final. The occasion was still a two-legged affair with each of the finalists hosting a leg (though this changed to a one-off final at Wembley a year later), and Peters played in both matches. He scored in the second game but opponents West Bromwich Albion emerged as 5–3 winners on aggregate. The 1968–69 season saw Peters only hat-trick for West Ham in a 4–0 home defeat of West Bromwich Albion. It was also his most prolific season, 24 goals coming from 48 games.
Feeling he was in the shadows of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, Peters sought out a new challenge. In March 1970, West Ham received a record-breaking £200,000 (£150,000 cash) for Peters from Tottenham Hotspur and Peters moved to White Hart Lane, with Spurs and England striker Jimmy Greaves (valued at £50,000) going the other way. On 21 March 1970 Peters scored on his Spurs debut against Coventry City. He won his first domestic winners' medal in 1971 when Spurs beat Aston Villa 2–0 in the League Cup final. Spurs beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3–2 on aggregate to win the 1972 UEFA Cup in what remained the only all-English European final until Manchester United beat Chelsea in the UEFA Champion's League Final, 2008. In 1973, Peters won the League Cup again with Spurs. He completed one more season with Spurs – losing the 1974 UEFA Cup final to Feyenoord on aggregate – before moving to Norwich City – managed by his former West Ham teammate John Bond – in March 1975 for £50,000.
Peters, now aged 31, made his debut appearance for Norwich on 15 March 1975 in a 1–1 away draw to Manchester United. He helped newly promoted Norwich establish themselves in the First Division, making more than 200 appearances, and earning a testimonial against an all-star team which included most of the 1966 World Cup winning England XI. He was voted Norwich City F.C. Player of the Season two years running, in 1976 and 1977, and in 2002 was made an inaugural member of the Norwich City F.C. Hall of Fame. In 1978, whilst still a Norwich City player, Peters was awarded an MBE for services to association football.
He joined Sheffield United on 31 July 1980 as player-coach with the intention of replacing Harry Haslam as manager. His first appearance came in a 2–1 victory against Hull City on 2 August 1980 in the Anglo-Scottish Cup and his League debut came in the opening match of the season in a Division Three fixture against Carlisle United. He scored once in a 3–0 victory.
Alf Ramsey had seen Peters' potential quickly, and in May 1966 he gave the young midfielder his debut for England against Yugoslavia at Wembley. England won 2–0 and Peters had an outstanding debut. Nearly scoring twice he set up chances for Jimmy Greaves and for others. In the final preparation period for Ramsey prior to naming his squad for the World Cup, Peters played in two more of the scheduled warm-up games. Against Finland, he scored his first international goal in what was only his second appearance, and subsequently he made Ramsey's squad for the competition, as did his West Ham teammates Bobby Moore (the England captain) and Geoff Hurst.
Though Peters did not play in the opening group game against Uruguay, the drab 0–0 draw prompted Ramsey into changes. The England coach had been toying with using a system which allowed narrow play through the centre, not operating with conventional wingers but instead with fitter, centralised players who could show willing in defence as well as spread the ball and their runs in attack. Peters therefore had become an ideal player for this 4–1-3-2 system, elegant in his distribution and strong in his forward running, yet showing the stamina, discipline and pace to get back and help the defence when required. This system was dubbed "the wingless wonders".
Ramsey put Peters in the team for his fourth cap, for the second group game against Mexico, which England won 2–0. He kept his place as England got through their group, scraped past a violent Argentina side in the quarter finals (Peters' late cross set up Hurst's header for the only goal) and beat Portugal in the last four. The Germans awaited in the final.
A tense but open game at Wembley saw the score at 1–1 in the final quarter of an hour when England won a corner. Alan Ball delivered it to the edge of the area to Hurst, who tried a shot on the turn. The ball deflected high into the air and bounced down into the penalty area where Peters rifled home a half-volley. The Germans equalised in the final seconds, though glory would still come the team's way with the 4–2 win in extra time, and Hurst – like Peters, winning only his eighth cap – completing a historic hat-trick.
In the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico Peters played in England's three group games from which they qualified again with West Germany waiting in the last eight. Peters scored against the Germans again early in the second half – a run and finish from behind a defender which no West German player had spotted – to establish a 2–0 lead, but later Ramsey committed a tactical error by substituting Peters and Bobby Charlton with Colin Bell and Norman Hunter, and West Germany won 3–2 in extra-time.
In 1972, Peters won his 50th England cap in a qualifier for the 1972 European Championships, beating Switzerland 3–2. England failed to progress due to another defeat against West Germany, who went on to win the tournament. International disappointment for Peters was tempered mildly by more club success, and he scored the only goal as England beat Scotland at Wembley on 19 May 1973. It was his 20th goal for his country and would prove to be his last. England had been stuttering in their qualifying campaign for the 1974 World Cup, dropping points in a drawn game against Wales and then a 2–0 defeat against Poland in Chorzów on 6 June 1973. England needed to defeat Poland at Wembley on 17 October 1973 to qualify for the finals in Germany and, with an out-of-form Moore dropped from the side (he'd only play once more subsequently for his country) Peters captained the side for the crucial game. A defensive error allowed Poland to score and only a penalty allowed England to level up quickly. Allan Clarke scored from it, but England could not get the crucial winning goal. Poland went through after the match finished 1–1 meaning Peters would not play in a third successive World Cup competition. At the age of 30, Peters' career at the highest level began to slip away. He played three more games for England, reaching a total of 67 caps, though his career with his country ended, on 18 May 1974, as England lost 2–0 defeat against Scotland at Hampden Park.
His wait to become manager was not long, his final game coming against Gillingham on 17 January 1981 which Haslam was too ill to attend, and at which there were demonstrations from the Sheffield United fans. Peters retired to take up the manager's job the following day with United 12th in the table with 16 games to play, but was unable to halt the decline already in place, winning just three of the remaining games. For the first and only time in their history Sheffield United were relegated to the Fourth Division, and Peters resigned. On his retirement from professional football in January 1981, after a distinguished and injury-free career, he had made 882 appearances in total, scoring 220 goals. After he quit Sheffield United Peters spent the 1982–83 season playing in defence for Gorleston in the Eastern Counties League.
In 1984, he moved into the insurance business where he stayed until he was made redundant in July 2001.
In 1998 Peters joined the board of directors at Spurs, and, although he since stepped down, he remains one of the match-day welcomers in the hospitality suites at the club's White Hart Lane ground. He has also worked in the hospitality suites at Upton Park for West Ham home matches, often attending with his children and grandchildren, all West Ham supporters.
|1961–62||West Ham United||First Division||5||0|
|1969–70||Tottenham Hotspur||First Division||7||2|
|1974–75||Norwich City||Second Division||10||2|
|1980–81||Sheffield United||Third Division||24||4|