More than half a century after English football’s finest hour, the prospect of another World Cup means that once again, it is time to tell the familiar story of England’s 1966 World Cup win and the players who won it, with the same old stories and same old pictures. But this year, the National Portrait Gallery is doing something a bit different.
The gallery on Trafalgar Square has acquired some rarely seen photos of Bobby Moore from his family, and Moore’s daughter Roberta, who is herself a gallery owner, has helped put together an exhibition called ‘Bobby Moore: First Gentleman of English football.’
The classic 1966 red shirt picture of Moore being held aloft with the Jules Rimet trophy is there, but only on the explanatory poster, as the selection of rarely seen black and white photos show a new side to the character of one of football’s great heroes, from his youth team days, through his rise to stardom, and also Moore the family man, relaxing.
‘As a gallerist myself, I know Philip Prodger, who was head of photography at the National Portrait Gallery. We were talking about something else and he said “I didn’t realise you were football royalty – are you sitting on a stash of great photographs?” and I told him I had the most amazing pictures at home, but they were just sitting there in storage boxes, so he was very keen to see them,’ Roberta told Blowing Bubbles in an exclusive interview.
‘With a couple of curators, we spent many hours going through them all, the gallery acquired some and I donated some more, so it’s really nice to see them framed on the walls, rather than just sitting dog-eared in boxes – now they’re owned by the nation, it feels very special and important.’
The unusual circumstances of her family life and her father being public property are something she says she has grown used to and embraces, but Roberta said it was very important to the family to have a chance to showcase the full character of Bobby Moore – the public figure and the private man.
‘This is a real insight into him, his life and times,’ she explained. ‘There are certain photos like the red shirt World Cup photos that everyone has seen so many times before but this is different. The Gallery could only acquire a certain amount of the pictures, so it mattered to me that the ones they did get covered every aspect of his career.’
In an event at the Gallery to promote the exhibition, Moore was joined on stage by Matthew Lorenzo, the driving force behind the 2016 documentary film Bo66y, Moore’s biographer Jeff Powell, former team-mate Harry Redknapp and lifelong friend comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, to discuss the life and times of the West Ham and England legend.
Roberta talked about what it was like growing up with one of the world’s most famous faces, and the colourful impact it had on her childhood – such as being babysat by Sean Connery – and she gave an insight into the man behind the myth.
‘Dad was different at home, he was more relaxed. Even as a child I noticed the difference,’ she said. ‘He was a reserved, shy individual who had to live in the spotlight, so when he was interviewed, he stiffened up a bit – but that person wasn’t the dad I knew. When he came home he did relax and was fun, and was just like what dads are like.
‘He didn’t have a different persona as such, I think he just put a bit of a mask on. That became his shield, and when everyone hears now about all the setbacks and disappointments he had in his life, that shyness turned into stoicism – but as a daughter, I have lovely memories of a funny, affectionate man.’
The name and the image of Bobby Moore are inescapable – Roberta said she once saw his face on a washbag in a hotel in Vietnam, where it was identified and commented on by one of the hotel porters – but unsurprisingly, it is Moore the private man rather than the public figure that remains closest to his daughter’s heart.
‘My favourite picture is the one of him on the swing chair in the garden, relaxing,’ she said. ‘Even though he’d been through so much disappointment in life, he didn’t sit at home weeping into his tea, he still laughed, he was jolly, he got the joke. He was an upbeat, fun character who had a great life, and I want these photos to convey that.’
The exhibition, which, like the rest of the National Portrait Gallery, is free to enter, is on until the end of the year, and Roberta hopes fans will be able to come along and see a lesser known side of one of the most famous people England has ever produced.
‘It’s very important for me that his legacy lives on, and for it to be here in particular is extra special,’ she said. ‘I remember coming here with Dad back in 1991 to unveil Bobby Charlton’s portrait, so to be here now doing this for him feels like life has come full circle. Of course, I just wish he was here to be part of it.’
Bobby Moore: First Gentleman of English Football runs at the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square until January 1.