George Cohen

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George Cohen
George Cohen.jpg
Cohen in 2007
Personal information
Full name George Reginald Cohen
Date of birth (1939-10-22) 22 October 1939 (age 81)
Place of birth Kensington, England
Position(s) Right-back
Senior career*
1956–1969 Fulham 459 (6)
National team
1959–1963 England U23 8 (0)
1964–1967 England 37 (0)
Representing Flag of England.svg  England
Men's football
FIFA World Cup
Winner 1966 England
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

George Reginald Cohen MBE (born 22 October 1939) is an English former professional footballer who played as a right-back. He spent his entire professional career with Fulham, and won the 1966 World Cup with England. He has been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame and is the uncle of rugby union World Cup winner, Ben Cohen.


Playing career


Cohen was a one-club footballer joining Fulham professionally in 1956 and remaining there until retirement through injury 13 years later in March 1969. [1] 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. As a full back he also managed to score six League goals for Fulham.[ citation needed ]


Cohen in December 1964, standing next to Tony Waiters, who is about to shake hands with Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld Jubileumwedstrijd 75 jaar KNVB. Nederland tegen Engeland 1-1. De Prins wordt voo, Bestanddeelnr 917-2245.jpg
Cohen in December 1964, standing next to Tony Waiters, who is about to shake hands with Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld

Blackpool's Jimmy Armfield played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile. In April 1964, however, Armfield won his 41st cap in a 1–0 defeat to an Alan Gilzean of Scotland goal at Hampden Park. England coach 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 – badly timed 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 England hosted competition started. [2]

Ramsey's team played without conventional wingers, 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 worth. [3]

After England's win over Argentina in the quarter-finals, Cohen was featured in a photograph in which Ramsey prevented him from swapping shirts as customary with an opponent – Ramsey had referred to the Argentine players as "animals" for their fouling and gamesmanship during the match. [4]

Three days later, one of Cohen's overlapping runs and near-post passes contributed to Charlton's semi-final clincher as England edged out Portugal.[ citation needed ]

As vice-captain in the final against West Germany Cohen won his 30th cap. He blocked the last minute Lothar Emmerich free-kick that subsequently found its way across the England six-yard box for Wolfgang Weber to equalise 2–2. England won 4–2 in extra-time. [5]

Cohen played seven of the next eight internationals. His 37th and final England appearance was a 2–0 win over Northern Ireland at Wembley on 22 November 1967. He never scored for England. He was the first of England's 1966 XI to cease playing for his country.[ citation needed ]

Coaching career

Cohen coached the Fulham youth team and the England under-23 team for a time, and also managed non-league Tonbridge.[ citation needed ]


Manchester United's 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.[ citation needed ]

Cohen was awarded the MBE in 2000, along with four teammates 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 Roger Hunt.[ citation needed ]

In October 2016, a statue of Cohen was unveiled at Craven Cottage by club chairman 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. [6]

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 it.[ citation needed ]

Later life

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 Restaurant.[ citation needed ]

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." [7]

Personal life

His surname was inherited from a Jewish great-grandfather. George Cohen was brought up in the Church of England. [8] He married his wife Daphne in 1962. They have two sons. His nephew Ben Cohen was an English rugby union and Rugby World Cup winner with England in 2003. [9]


George Cohen is known as one of the few "greatest one-trophy wonders", winning solely a Fifa World Cup Winner's Medal. [10]

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  1. "England Player Profile: George Cohen". 2014. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  2. "1966 FIFA World Cup". FIFA . Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  3. "George Cohen Statistics". FIFA. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  4. "1966: the bloodiest World Cup?". FourFourTwo . 1 April 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  5. "1966 FIFA World Cup Final". FIFA. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  7. Moore, Matthew; Evans, Martin (18 June 2010). "World Cup 2010: British university in firing line over Jabulani ball goal drought". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010.
  8. 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 of England.
  9. Horvitz, Peter S (2006). The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes . ISBN   9781561719075.