Love is in the air but it has not always been a week of romance (even of the cup variety) with West Ham victims of a variety of harrowing Valentine’s Day massacres over the years.
The most painful of these occurred in a 1990 League Cup semi-final first leg against fellow Division 2 side Oldham Athletic. The Latics were in fine cup form that season and West Ham were no match on their ‘plastic’ pitch providing little resistance and going down by six goals to nil. West Ham did win the second leg 3-0 but it was all rather academic by then. In 1996, it was banana skins rather than roses courtesy of an away defeat in an FA Cup 4th round replay to lowly Grimsby Town and just two years ago a particularly limp performance was on show when surrender 4-0 in a 4th round tie to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
A game very close to my heart, and one with a more pleasing outcome, took place in 1972 when West Ham faced a 4th round replay with non League Hereford United. The country was in the middle of severe power restrictions at the time due to a long running miner’s strike and the associated picketing of power stations. With electricity rationed the midweek game was moved to an usual kick-off time of 2:15 pm. Nevertheless a crowd of over 42,000 took the opportunity to leave work or school early and packed into Upton Park to watch the game against the Southern League part-timers. In the end West Ham were comfortable 3-1 winners, with Geoff Hurst’s final hat-trick for the club, despite a spirited performance from Hereford who left the pitch to a standing ovation.
One final 14th of February game to mention was a match in 1981 when West Ham hosted Chelsea in what was at the time a Second Division fixture. This was an all-conquering season for the Hammers who had gone top of the table in mid-November and remained there for the duration and collected a record points haul for the division (in the days of two points for a win). Chelsea had been early season challengers but were easily brushed aside; the game ending with a decisive 4-0 West Ham victory (Devonshire, Brooking (2), Cross).
This week being 5th round cup week it also featured further games on the road to Wembley (& Cardiff) for each of our post-war FA cup finals. In 1964, West Ham were visitors to the County Ground in Swindon, having taken an early lead through John Sissons the Hammers were well on top before easing up to let the host level the scores before half time. The second period was evenly contested before Peter Brabrook provided crosses that were converted by Byrne and then Hurst to ease the Hammers into the 6th round.
Standen, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Moore, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Hurst, Sissons
The 5th round opponents in 1975 were west Londoner’s Queens Park Rangers. It was one of those games played in the Upton Park mud where players ploughed rather than glided over the surface. Dave Clement put Rangers into the lead before Trevor Brooking took control; first setting up Pat Holland for the equaliser and then with a cheeky back-heel to start a move that ended with Keith Robson’s winner.
Day, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Lock, Jennings, Paddon, Robson, Brooking, Holland
In 1980, the 5th round saw the Hammers drawn at home, for the first time in that season’s competition, against fellow second division side Swansea City. The Swans with player/ manager John Toshack and fellow ex-Liverpool star Ian Callaghan in their lineup came to frustrate and as the minutes ticked by it looked that a replay at the Vetch Field was the most probable outcome. However, with just 5 minutes remaining a shot from David Cross ran loose in the area and Paul Allen, on as a substitute for Stuart Pearson, pounced to give West Ham the lead. Within a minute it was game over as Cross, himself, doubled the lead with a fine strike.
Parkes, Lampard, Brush, Stewart, Martin, Devonshire, Neighbour, Pearson (Allen) , Cross, Brooking, Pike
For the under 40s, with no trophy winning memories to fall back on, the road to Cardiff in 2006 was the closest to glory that has been witnessed. The 5th round draw in 2006 had West Ham visiting Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers who were also competing in the UEFA Cup at the time. Both sides had chances to score but the tie ended goalless to set up a replay at Upton Park, which would not take place until almost a month later. An interesting feature of the matchday squad (by contemporary standards) is the presence of four strikers for manager Alan Pardew to call on.
Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun (Dailly), Etherington, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Ashton (Sheringham), Harewood (Zamora)
Some Hammer’s Birthdays
13 February Liam Brady (61)
15 February Manuel Lanzini (24)
16 February Ken Brown (83)
18 February Anton Ferdinand (32)