There have been so many great games in the last 58 years and I’ve covered many of them throughout my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford. So many of them are remembered because of the importance of the game, the goals scored, and the spine-tingling atmosphere generated by our fans. Hopefully my memories of these great games will evoke fond memories of fans, (especially older ones like me!), and the music in the charts at the time.
West Ham 3 Glasgow Celtic 3, played on 16 November 1970 is an unusual choice perhaps as it was just a testimonial game, the one for Bobby Moore. Celtic were arguably the most attractive team in Europe at the time and they brought their first team to play in an exciting game. The football was full on attacking from both sides, and the noise was enhanced by the thousands of Scots who had travelled down to London for the game. It was a fitting tribute to a legend.
So on a freezing cold Monday night, I stood on the North Bank with school friends to watch an exhilarating game of football. Ticket prices were raised for the game from 6 shillings to 10 shillings – that’s 30p to 50p. I paid 3 shillings for my programme (15p). Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 with a superb display of attacking football beating a typically defensive and uncompromising Italian team, Inter Milan. I remember watching that game in black and white (very grainy pictures) in the early evening after coming home from school that day. They were a goal down and took the game to the Italians who were just content to hold onto their one goal lead. Eventually they managed to break through twice near the end of the game to deservedly become European Champions.
They remained a major force in Europe for a while, and in the season preceding the visit to play against us in Bobby Moore’s testimonial, they again reached the European Cup Final, losing 2-1 after extra time to Feyenoord of Holland. All credit to Jock Stein, their manager, who fielded the same team that had taken part in the European Cup final the previous May.
I remember the game going from end to end and it was a joy to watch. In truth Celtic were probably the better team, but in many ways we matched them which made for an exciting spectacle. It was one of those Upton Park nights where the atmosphere was electric, and the volume was increased by the multitude of Glaswegians who took their place on the South Bank. Their support was phenomenal.
Three times Celtic took the lead and three times we pegged them back. Celtic missed a number of good chances including one that I particularly remember from Jimmy Johnstone, who gave one of the greatest displays I have ever seen from an opposing player at Upton Park. His skill was phenomenal and many times he tore our defence to shreds. But with the game poised at 3-3 in the final minutes he contrived to put the ball over the crossbar when he was almost on the goal line. Perhaps it was a magnanimous gesture to ensure the game ended in a draw? Whatever. It was just a great game.
Our goals were scored by Geoff Hurst (from a cross by Moore), Johnny Ayris, a young tricky winger we had at the time who looked a great prospect as a youngster but only probably played a couple of dozen times for us in six or seven years, and the final equalizing header from Clyde Best.
The game was actually sponsored by Esso, and according to newspaper reports I read at the time and kept in a scrapbook, the 24,000 crowd meant that after deduction of all the expenses, Bobby Moore collected around £12,000. Gate and programme receipts came to around £21,000 but I suppose Esso took a cut and Celtic had to be paid expenses to appear. It doesn’t seem a lot now when you consider that he was a legend of the game, but I guess to put it into perspective the average wage at the time must have been (and I’m guessing here) somewhere around £30+ a week. The England players who won the World Cup in 1966 each picked up a bonus of £1000! It doesn’t really stand comparison with the vast sums of money earned by footballers today.
The number one song in the charts at the time was Woodstock, by Matthews Southern Comfort. Woodstock was a famous music festival held in the US in the summer of 1969. The festival, which attracted over 400,000 people, was widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history. The event was captured in an award winning documentary in 1970, the movie Woodstock, a soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell’s song which commemorated the event, and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as the chart-topper for Matthews Southern Comfort. Other songs in the charts that week included Black Night, by Deep Purple; Band of Gold by Freda Payne, which had previously been a number one; War, by Edwin Starr (what is it good for, absolutely nothing); Paranoid, by Black Sabbath (with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals); Voodoo Chile, by Jimi Hendrix, about to become the number one in the following week; Whole Lotta Love, by CCS (the theme tune to a TV institution for so many years, Top of the Pops), Ride A White Swan, by T Rex; and Cracklin’ Rosie by Neil Diamond.