This week we are going to gloss over a 7-0 defeat at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday in 1959 and a 5-2 reverse at Tranmere in 1992 to focus our attention on famous League Cup exploits that have taken place between 28 November and 4 December in Hammer’s history. It’s your own cut out and keep League Cup supplement.
The 1980/81 season was one of the most memorable and successful ever for the Hammers. Although consigned to the second division at the time West Ham boasted a top flight team and were well on course for promotion when they came up against Tottenham in a quarter final tie on a frosty evening in early December. West Ham had won each or their last 13 home games and after a slow start to the match began to get the better of their close neighbours whose lineup included Hoddle, Ardiles and Villa. With less than 10 minutes left and still scoreless Brooking was put through on goal but his shot was blocked by out-rushing keeper Barry Daines in the Spurs goal. The ball broke loose to the right hand side of the penalty area where running away from goal David Cross chipped the ball delightfully in at the far post to score his 21st goal of the season. Cue pandemonium and one more famous victory over the north Londoners.
Parkes, Stewart, Bonds, Martin, Lampard, Holland, Pike, Brooking, Devonshire, Cross, Goddard
On 30 November 1988, second from bottom West Ham entertained high flying current champions Liverpool at Upton Park in a 4th round tie. It turned out to be another memorable occasion under the floodlights and, in particular, for Paul Ince who scored two first half goals (an excellent volley and a deft header) to set the Hammers on their way. Liverpool pulled one back from the penalty spot (how else could they beat Allen McKnight) before half time but a bizarre Steve Staunton headed own goal restored West Ham’s two goal advantage. The scoring was then completed courtesy of a Tony Gale Payet-esque free kick that had been awarded after Nigel Spackman tried to remove Julian Dicks head with his boot. The Hammers securing an unlikely 4-1 victory on the night.
McKnight, Potts, Dicks, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Brady, Kelly, Rosenior, Dickens, Ince
On the very same day but 22 years later it was top versus bottom as Manchester United were the visitors to Upton Park for a 5th round tie against Avram Grant’s erratic side. Manchester United were the holders of the then Carling Cup and came into the match unbeaten in domestic competition that season and off the back of a 7-1 annihilation of Blackburn Rovers the previous weekend. The match was played in what journalists like to call ‘arctic conditions’ and after some early scares Super Jonny Spector took centre stage to notch a first half brace (the American’s first goals in English football) against his former club. In the second half two well take goals from Carlton Cole made it a wonderful 4-0 humiliation of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and leaving Sir Alex even more red in the face than usual through embarrassment and cold.
Green, Faubert, Tomkins (Reid), Upson, Ben Haim, Barrera (Hines), Kovac, Spector, Boa Morte, Cole (Stanislas), Obinna
So maybe 30 November is an auspicious date for successful League Cup encounters as we prepare for episode two of the Old Trafford series on Wednesday. Just bear in mind that West Ham were relegated in both the 1988/89 and 2010/11 seasons.
A more personal memory was one where I failed to observe my unwritten rule of never attending matches with supporters of the opposing team. This was in November 2000 when I took two work colleagues from Sheffield to watch second division Wednesday play West Ham at Upton Park. This was the first home game after the sale of Rio to Leeds and featured the debut of cut-price replacement Rigobert Song. With Di Canio in full flow against his former employers we started as if we were going to murder them but the footballing gods had other ideas and we lost the game 2-1 to prompt much mickey-taking.
This week’s birthdays.
1 December Francois Ven Der Elst (62)