John Varley: The man behind iconic 1970 World Cup pic

John Varley, the Yorkshire-based photographer who took the iconic picture of Bobby Moore and Pele at the 1970 World Cup, has died aged 76.

The picture of the two biggest names in football embracing after Brazil beat England sums up what made John one of the leading photojournalists of his generation.

He had an instinct for where things might develop and was patient enough to wait for te crucial moment when others had departed the scene. Bobby Moore said it was his favourite photo of himself.

Born in Doncaster, John became fascinated by photography when a neighbour took a snap of him and brought him the print the following day. From that moment on he made up his mind there was only one job for him.

He started in the darkroom at the Doncaster Evening News aged 15 and quickly worked his way up to be a staff photographer. From there he joined Leo White’s East Mid agency in Doncaster, before being offered the Leeds-based staff job on the Daily Mirror.

John was an innovator. As part of his contract with the Dail Mirror, he had a sabbatical every four years and he used them to cover every World Cup from 1966-1982. When England won the trophy in 1966 he was one of only two photographers using colour film.

Four years later, he and reporter Alan Staniforth persuaded the Daily Mirror that they should drive the South American stage of the World Cup rally and when the car broke down just outside Mexico City, John hitch-hiked the rest of the way to be at the opening ceremony.

But there was more to John than just sport. One of his first shoots to come to national attention was of floods in Doncaster where he captured images of policemen wading through the devastation to save children.

He was in the thick of the action in Northern Ireland and one of the first photographers to send back pictures of children caught up in the civil war in Biafra. Whatever the assignment, he came back with memorable images.

John’s son Andrew has followed in his footsteps as a photographer while his younger son David is a successful TV cameraman and director.

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