West Ham Heroes – Number 3 – Sir Geoff Hurst

The West Ham and World Cup striking hero who had no trouble knowing where the goal was.

Sir Geoff Hurst

For a West Ham footballer of the 1960s Geoff Hurst was something of a rarity. Almost all of the team at the time were born within the sound of Bow Bells, whereas Geoff was born, as all the football programmes of the time will tell you, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His family moved to Chelmsford when he was a small boy, so he qualifies as another local player. His dad was a professional footballer in the lower leagues. Geoff joined the youth set-up at Upton Park around the same time as Bobby Moore.

In his early days he was a wing half, just like Bobby, but one day, in September 1963, Ron Greenwood made one of the most inspired footballing decisions of all time, when he decided that Geoff should swap his number 4 shirt for the number 10 shirt and play up front. Of course the rest is history.

In around 500 games for us he scored 249 goals, making him our second highest goalscorer of all time behind Vic Watson from an earlier era. As a centre-forward he had all the attributes needed, powerful, fast, strong in the air, two good feet, and an unshakeable temperament, where he refused to be intimidated by the tough-tackling defenders that were around at the time. He also knew how to put the ball in the net.

He played 49 games for England, scoring 24 goals. For West Ham and England he scored an average of a goal every other game. Of his type, and I know I am biased, I believe he was the best centre-forward I have ever seen. Only Alan Shearer runs him close; they had many similarities as footballers, with similar goalscoring records.

Of course he is most famous to the world at large for scoring a hat-trick for England in the 1966 World Cup Final. He remains the only footballer to have achieved the feat. He only won his first England cap in February 1966, and didn’t even start the tournament that year in the team. He came into the side for the quarter-final against Argentina when Jimmy Greaves was injured. He scored the only goal of a tough game, turning in a near post cross from Martin Peters, a goal straight from the West Ham training ground at Chadwell Heath.

He kept his place for the semi-final, setting up one of the goals in a victory over Portugal, and controversially (to some) also retained his place in the team for the final, despite Jimmy Greaves having recovered from injury. In so many ways, the hat-trick in the final was perfect. A near post header from a Bobby Moore free kick, a right footed shot that thundered down off the underside of the bar, and a left footed screamer in the last seconds of extra time (when some people were on the pitch thinking it was all over!).

But my main memories are of the goals and performances for West Ham throughout the 1960s. In many ways Geoff took over from my previous hero who wore the number 10 shirt, John Dick. Geoff was the leading scorer in seven seasons, and in the mid-sixties he twice scored forty goals in all competitions.

Perhaps the most impressive front-two partnership I have ever witnessed in almost sixty years of watching the game was the one Geoff forged alongside Johnny (Budgie) Byrne for a five year period from around 1962 until 1967. Their understanding, not to mention their prolific goal tally, was superb. He also played up front for a short time alongside both Jimmy Greaves and Pop Robson in a claret and blue shirt. Many will also recall the almost telepathic partnership with Martin Peters who played in midfield. On so many occasions they set up goals for one another, many of them coming from the near post cross that West Ham patented at the time.

I was listening to Dean Ashton (another in the Geoff Hurst mould) on the radio recently and he was bemoaning the current trend for one striker playing up front on his own. How I would love to see a change of tactic with a front pairing along the lines of Hurst and Byrne, or McAvennie and Cottee, in our attack at the moment.

Geoff was Hammer of the Year on three occasions in the 1960s at a time when we had so many great players. He is one of a handful of footballers to have been knighted, although quite why that honour was not bestowed upon the whole of the 1966 World Cup winning team is beyond me.

Of course we can’t leave a piece on Geoff Hurst without mentioning the controversial third goal (the first in extra time) in the 1966 World Cup Final. Apparently Geoff is asked the question almost every day. Did it cross the line? Well Roger Hunt says it did, as did the Azerbaijan linesman. That’s good enough for me!

Five Things From The Chelsea Bashing

Picking out the gems from a very satisfying night in the EFL Cup against Chelsea.

5 Things WHULoving The Tempo and Mobility

A game in which we were definitely ‘up for it’. Playing again at a high tempo with great movement and incisive passing. In some ways it is easier to play like this when teams come to attack you but that is not really an excuse as to why we have floundered against the weaker teams again this season.  If you look at the performance last night you can believe that we are a match for anyone; far removed from the laboured display (especially in the second half) against lowly Sunderland just a few days ago. When you are passing and moving with pace you will always create chances and there could have been more to add to the the excellent strikes by Kouyate and Fernandes. The interplay between Cresswell, Lanzini and Payet is exceptional at times.  We simply need to play like this more often and more consistently; not just when the big boys come along.

The Peripatetic Michail Antonio

Michail Antonio is becoming Slav’s odd job man; right back, right wing, wing-back and striker. I have heard some question his attitude, that he sulks if not in his favoured position, but I believe that is nonsense. He shows great commitment and spirit wherever he plays but is not equally as effective in each one. Although I don’t think he is an answer to our striking problems it was great to see someone with the strength and movement to give the opposition defence the run around. Poor old John Terry was dragged all over the place. The presence of this type of frontman is so important in the modern game. The static lump of a centre forward has no place at the top level and certainly not when played as a lone striker. Pace and movement as well as an eye for goal are what is required both to score goals and create space for others.

Fan Trouble

It is very unfortunate that the crowd trouble over-shadowed the performance; at least as far as the media were concerned who preferred it as a story to Chelsea being ‘ousted’ from the EFL Cup. I have no insight as to who caused the trouble, the ‘real’ extent of the problem and whether the stadium design contributed in any way towards it. Probably need to get the taxpayer to sort it out for us! Other than that it was a tremendous atmosphere.

Three Men at the Back

It is unusual to see a full bloodied English cup-tie with both teams employing 3 at the back. You might expect the midfield to be super over-crowded but it was an open and free-flowing game. The 3 man backline had worked well (until yesterday) for Chelsea and it is so far so good as far as West Ham are concerned as well. It can and does leave more room to exploit down the flanks but is possibly our best option given current available personnel. I guess Slaven will use the system until it goes wrong but in reality it will be more successful against some opponents than others. At the moment Reid, Kouyate and Ogbonna seem to create a solid partnership and acquitted themselves far better than Old Man Terry and his pals.

Obiang and Fernandes

All of the midfield players did their bit last night but in a situation where supporters have perhaps been generally underwhelmed by the summer transfer business it has been very pleasing to see what Fernandes can offer; he looks a very talented and assured player and not just one for the future. Although Obiang is not a new signing he seems like one due to the limited opportunities he was given last season. He provides much needed solidity in front of the defence and what a strike that was towards the end of the first half. It is difficult to understand why he was trusted so little previously. Similar to playing Antonio at right back (and signing Tore) it is one of Slav’s stranger decisions. Great to see Ayew back in the action as well.

Can We Win the EFL Cup?

Previewing the EFL Cup Fourth Round clash with Chelsea.

EFL Cup ChelseaAs I wrote prior to the last round of the competition, our two realistic chances of a trophy before the season began, and now our only two opportunities, come in the domestic cup competitions. And when you analyse the competitions in detail, you realise how relatively easy they should be to win. The EFL Cup can be won by getting through four rounds of football and then winning the final at Wembley. Sounds easy doesn’t it? To be handed a draw at home to Accrington Stanley of League Two should have been a very easy passage into the last 16, but, although we made it in the end, we made heavy weather of it.

Prior to the last round we were the seventh or eighth favourites to land the trophy (you could get odds of between 14/1 and 20/1), so the bookmakers at that time fancied our chances more than some teams higher than us in the Premier League. Now, with just sixteen teams remaining, and just one home game away from a place in the quarter-final our odds have drifted to 25/1, making us eighth favourites to land the trophy. Chelsea are fourth favourites at 11/2, so you can see who the bookmakers believe are going to win this tie. And it’s not as if Chelsea are pulling up trees themselves this season.

Recent history gives us a chance. Although they beat us with a very late goal in the opening match of this season at Stamford Bridge (by a player who should not have still been on the pitch at the time!), we won the last encounter at Upton Park on 24 October last year with goals from Zarate and substitute Carroll. This win was one that hastened the departure of Jose Mourinho. Do you recall those forlorn photographs of him standing in front of the directors’ box after he had been sent off by the referee.

The only time that we have met them in a League Cup tie at Upton Park was in the third round of the 1994-95 competition, on October 26 1994. Don Hutchison scored the goal that enabled us to progress to the next round (where we were eliminated by Bolton!). Of course we have never won the competition ourselves, but Chelsea have won it five times, most recently in 2015. Our two friends, Terry and Costa scored the goals that beat our other friends from White Hart Lane 2-0.

In 2004 (October 27), when we were only in the Championship, we met them in this round at Stamford Bridge and they ran out winners 1-0. They went on to win the trophy that year beating Liverpool in the Final. They were also the runaway champions of the Premier League that season, winning by a dozen points, and only losing one league match in the process. So our narrow defeat, given our position at the time, was a noteworthy performance.

By coincidence we meet them once again on October 26. Despite our relatively poor form this season, this is a one-off cup tie and anything can happen. Hopefully we can take advantage of the home draw and progress into the last eight.

West Ham 1 v 0 Sunderland

Reporting by postcard from the beach in Gran Canaria.

Holiday ReportAt the end of a day of sunbathing, swimming, reading, eating and drinking, I reflect on following the fortunes of our team from further away than usual.

Although this is my 59th season watching West Ham, and I have seen far more games than I have missed in that time, I have yet to go through a whole season attending every home game, despite being a season ticket holder for some time.

Booking holidays well in advance of the fixture list being revealed is an unfortunate necessity of life if you have a specific destination in mind, and have a wife who works in a school, and you wish to take a break in the half-term holiday. But even if you arrange the break such that only one weekend is involved, it is Murphy’s (or sod’s) law that the computer will ensure that you miss a home game. Of course it is a double Murphy when we progress in the League (EFL) cup and we are drawn at home to Chelsea in the following midweek.

As a result I was forced to follow the Sunderland game from a distance of around 2000 miles on the beach in Taurito in the south of Gran Canaria.

There weren’t many people on this particular stretch of black sand, typical of Canary Island shorelines. We paid our fifteen euros for two sun beds and a parasol, I took a dip in the warm, but fairly rough sea, and then settled down to follow the game via a variety of websites and social media. Just before half time, despite there being many sun beds free on the beach, a German family decided to invade our personal space unnecessarily by choosing the beds next to ours and then moving them closer.

So at half time we retreated to the hotel pool and I followed the game from there on my phone. It appeared that we were well on top but unable to make a deserved breakthrough.

The hotel had a number of bars, including a sports bar with a giant screen. Due to the wonders of modern technology, especially satellites, despite being seventy miles off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, it was possible to view almost any sporting event taking place anywhere in the world as it happened. In fact the giant screen could split into nine smaller screens to satisfy a whole range of tastes simultaneously. I would have been happy to watch the West Ham game on one-ninth of the screen, but despite there not being too many people in there wanting to watch on a sunny afternoon, almost all of them were selfish gooners who wanted to view the full size screen. So I sat outside in the sun, but as the game entered injury time I was resigned to a goalless draw and popped into the Sports Bar to see how many goals that Arsenal had put into the Middlesbrough net. They were in the 93rd minute, and just like their North London neighbours earlier in the day, they had failed to score. I couldn’t be too smug as we too had not scored against lowly Sunderland. Then almost simultaneously there was a goal in both games. The Arsenal fans were jubilant until they realised it had been disallowed as Ozil was yards offside. But our goal had stood and we had picked up a very welcome, although not entirely convincing three points.

Just a few minutes later I was able to view our goal on my phone. The way we approached a corner in the 94th minute took everyone, including our manager, but not Noble, Payet and Reid by surprise. Instead of the usual last minute hoof into the danger area, a cleverly worked short corner ended with Reid firing a low shot through almost everyone on the pitch. How it evaded everyone is hard to fathom. To me it appeared that three or four of our players were offside, especially Calleri who must have been unsighting the keeper. But incredibly the goal stood, and after all the dodgy refereeing decisions that went against us last season it made a big change for one to go in our favour.

This Week in Hammer’s History

The League Cup dominates the week 24 – 30 October in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryAppropriately in a week where we have a League Cup fourth round tie scheduled this week in Hammer’s history is dominated by various encounters across the years in the Cinderella  competition. Arguably, the easiest competition to win but one in which we remain complete virgins.

True to form there have been the expected disasters where the dreaded banana skins have fulfilled their slippery potential and sent us skidding towards the exit door. Notable among these were a 3-2 defeat to 4th division Darlington in the inaugural 1960/61 competition and 2-1 reverse to Chesterfield in 2006.

For the Darlington game a crowd of 17,057 (paying record gate receipts of £2,179 16s 9d) packed into the Feethams Ground and witnessed the hosts take the lead after just 20 seconds despite West Ham having kicked off. Dave Dunmore grabbed an equaliser to make it all square at half time before Darlington scored two midway through the second half to race into a 3-1 lead; the second of these goals following a poor backpass by full-back John Lyall. John Dick did manage to reduce the arrears with 20 minutes to play but that was as good as it got before the long trip back from the North-East.  Rhodes, Bond, Lyall, Malcolm, Brown, Moore, Grice, Woosnam, Dunmore, Dick, Musgrove.

Wednesday’s match with Chelsea will be the third League Cup meeting during this week in history with the spoils standing at one a piece to date as 1-0 advantages have favoured the home side on each occasion. We can eagerly look forward to history repeating itself in the coming days.

A particularly memorable match for me was the fourth round tie against Liverpool in 1971. With a crowd of over 40,000 and one of those electric nights under the Boleyn lights there was the elation of a late Pop Robson winner to seal an exciting 2-1 victory. I was convinced our name was on the trophy that season but the campaign was ultimately thwarted at the end of the epic semi-final series against Stoke City. Victory over Stoke would have interestingly set up a final tie at Wembly with Chelsea.

To finish on a high we will remember a second round second leg tie from 1983. Already leading 2-1 from the first leg West Ham welcomed 4th Division Bury to Upton Park on a cold Tuesday night. The crowd of just under 11,000 were rewarded for their tenacity and endurance with a 10-0 victory (a joint competition record) including a 4 goal haul for the 18 year old Tony Cottee. So impressed were West Ham by Bury’s defending that they signed the Shaker’s centre half Paul Hilton shortly after.

Take a look at the video (the date incorrectly states the 25 August) to re-live the evening along with a laconic Irish commentator and his unusual references to Bill Bonds.

There are no birthdays of note this week.

5 Things We Learned From Saturday

Other than a chicken kebab here are the takeaways from Saturday’s West Ham game.

5 Things WHUTaking Points over Performance.

After a faltering start to the season there is obvious satisfaction in getting two consecutive wins under the belt. In the opening quarter of the match we looked to have carried through the momentum from the previous week and played with rare freedom and confidence. Once Sunderland had weathered the storm, however, the game became more even and the tempo of our game fell away. Not for the first time this season we started well and then fizzled out and it is worrying if we cannot get a sustained 90 minute performance out of the players. Ultimately we took the three points and in the circumstances, as with any club floundering in the lower reaches of the table, we must prioritise points over performance for the time being. That is not going to keep the London Stadium filled in the longer term though.

A Late, Late Winner

It is not too often that West Ham grab a late winner deep into added time. Sunderland had settled for the respected point by then and it is to our credit that we get plugging away despite an overall disappointing second half. I have to admit that I didn’t see the goal coming as the short corner was taken and it was unexpected to see that Winston Reid had taken up a position on the edge of the box. Still a nice piece of skill from the Kiwi and a decent shot past an unsighted keeper. Possibly a suspicion of offside but not conclusive except to Mr Dour, the Sunderland manager.

No Penalty. Mr Madely?

There were penalties awarded in the Premier League yesterday. Prior to this week’s matches there had been 31 given in 80 matches. Yesterday’s referee, Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely, who last season had deemed that Loftus-Cheek tripping over his own feet outside the area was worthy of a spot kick seemed not to be aware of the new interpretations on grappling and holding as first Ogbonna and then Reid were both grabbed by Sunderland defenders. In the light of penalties that have been awarded elsewhere this season this again showed shocking inconsistency.

Swiss in a New Role

Slav had decided to stick with three at the back after the success at Crystal Palace and it was a surprise to see Edmilson Fernandes fill the gap left by the criminally suspended Aaron Cresswell. The formation suits the currently available players and so it is likley to the how West Ham set up for the foreseeable future; probably until it goes badly wrong. I do like what I have seen of young Fernandes despite not playing in his normal position. He looks very assured and comfortable on the ball as well as being full of energy. When Cresswell returns it would be disappointing to see him dropped to the bench and he would get my vote over Mark Noble in midfield on current showing.

No Striker, No Goals

It is now 9 games gone and a striker has yet to score a goal for West Ham; a sorry state of affairs that will continue to hold us back. Surely it is obvious to anyone who has been watching that there is no way that Simone Zaza looks cut out for the Premier League. This is not a player off form or simply low on confidence but one whose talents, whatever they may have been it Italy, do not translate into the English game. It is a waste of everyone’s time to keep playing him. We have seen enough to know that he is not a £20+ million striker. With continuing doubts over the fitness of Carrol and Sakho our hopes rest with the return Andre Ayew but in the meantime we may as well give Ashley Fletcher more game time; what use is the occasional 5 or 10 minutes? Sorry Simone here is your air ticket back to Turin.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 14

Just like printing money as we go big on a West Ham victory.

Fancy A Bet

Middlesbrough let us down last weekend, so our balance is now down to 100.1.

Today we’ll have some fun bets on West Ham v Sunderland:

22 points on West Ham to win @8/11 (38)
1 point on West Ham to win both halves @4/1 (5)
1 point on West Ham to win 3-1 @13/1 (14)
1 point on HT 1-0 FT 3-1 to West Ham @50-1 (51)
1 point on Antonio to score the first goal @13/2 (7.5)
1 point on Antonio first goal & score 3-1 @66-1 (67)
1 point on West Ham to score 3 or more goals @5/2 (3.5)
1 point on West Ham to win by exactly 2 goals @4/1 (5)
1 point on Obiang to score anytime & West Ham to win @10/1 (11)

Total stake 30 points.

If West Ham win the game then we are definitely up on the day.

But, if Antonio scores the first goal of the game, West Ham lead 1-0 at half time, West Ham win the game 3-1, and Obiang scores one of the second half goals, then our stake will win us over 200 points. Unlikely I know. But a bit of fun nonetheless.

What are the chances?