Former World Cup player Geoff Hurst is knighted in queen's birthday honours

 

The former England World Cup hero, Geoff Hurst - who became one of Mr Tony Blair's boyhood heroes when England won the competition in 1966 - receives a knighthood in Queen Elizabeth's Birthday Honours List, published today.

Sir Geoff, who is also one of England's ambassadors in the bid to host the World Cup in 2006 and became the only man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, was nominated for his contribution to sport.

In keeping with Labour's drive to recognise the achievements of Cool Britannia, Sir Geoff's knighthood - he already has an MBE - will no doubt come as a huge boost to the morale of the England team as they prepare for their first match in France on Monday. Among those cited in the Birthday Honours List there is recognition of the achievements of Princess Diana's personal friend, the dancer, Mr Wayne Sleep, who receives the OBE. Mr Sleep, who performed with Princess Diana at the Opera House in London in 1985, said he "could have danced all night" when he was told of the citation. "It's great that I have been recognised by the government over the years for the work I have done in trying to popularise and bring all forms of dance to the forefront and make it accessible for everyone."

The Birthday Honours List, which honours 976 people, 40 per cent of whom were nominated by members of the public, comprises a dazzling selection of celebrities from the world of sport, drama, television and the arts.

The author, Mr Terry Pratchett, becomes an OBE, and the veteran actor, Mr Leslie Phillips, best known for his roles in the Carry On films, receives the same citation. The former Generation Game presenter, Mr Bruce Forsyth, is also awarded the OBE.

Mr Peter Cattaneo, the director of Britain's award-winning film, The Full Monty, receives an MBE, while the Radio One disc jockey, Mr John Peel, who Mr Blair once described as a "radio legend", becomes an OBE.

The BBC director general, Mr John Birt, receives a knighthood, and the veteran author, Mr Robert Kee, who advised politicians on the intricacies of Northern Ireland, receives a CBE as does Ms Victoria Glendinning, who is widely regarded as one of the finest biographers of her generation. In the world of sport, there is an MBE for the new captain of the England cricket team, Mr Alec Stewart, who nearly managed to steer the team to victory over South Africa at Edgbaston last week.

The former England footballer, Mr John Barnes, who now plays with Newcastle United, receives the MBE, and the former captain of England's women football team, who once admitted she was obsessed with the game, Ms Debbie Bampton, also receives the same citation.

Britain's most successful athlete, Mr Linford Christie, receives the OBE to go with his MBE and the champion hurdler, Ms Sally Gunnell, also receives the OBE. The Scottish golfer, Mr Colin Montgomerie is awarded the MBE as does the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, Mr Lennox Lewis. In Queen Elizabeth's personal gift, the former director of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Major General Michael Hobbs, receives a knighthood, while Mr William Oswald, director of the Royal Stud at Sandringham also receives a knighthood.

Reflecting Labour's commitment to education and health, Mr Blair has nominated several teachers and health professionals, creating two knights and two dames from the field of education alone. Forty teachers receive honours, while 175 people working in medicine, including 91 NHS professionals, receive honours.

Among the other celebrities to receive a knighthood is the playwright Mr David Hare, whose latest creation is The Judas Kiss, which deals with the theme of love and betrayal in the life of Oscar Wilde. The lawyer and creator of the hugely successful Rumpole of the Bailey television series, Mr John Mortimer, receives the same honour.

The television critic, Mr Barry Norman, who is moving to Sky Television after more than 25 years with the BBC, receives the CBE, while one of Britain's finest jazz singers, Ms Carol Kidd, is made an MBE. Sir David English, former editor-in-chief and chairman of Associated Newspapers, who died this week, was to have become a life peer.