The Gaffers: Number 1 – John Lyall

We start an occasional series on West Ham managers with a look back at the great John Lyall on what would have been his 77th birthday.

John Lyall

In the history of English football, West Ham have allowed their managers to remain in charge of the team for longer than any other club on average. Since 1902, when Syd King was manager, through our election into the Football League in 1919, right up until the present day, we have had just 15 permanent managers. A few others, most notably Trevor Brooking, acted as caretaker managers. I have been watching West Ham since 1958 and the boss at the time was Ted Fenton, who was just our third manager in over half a century. John Lyall took over from Ron Greenwood in August 1974, and remained in charge until he was sacked in May 1989, after an association of 34 years with the club.

Lyall began his career at West Ham aged 15 as a groundstaff boy and office clerk, and was a promising full back, playing 34 times for the first team before a serious knee injury ended his career. He won international youth honours playing one game for England Youth, and was a member of the West Ham youth side that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 1957. He then concentrated on coaching and became assistant manager to Greenwood in 1971, becoming team manager three years later when his mentor moved upstairs.

It was a topsy-turvy 15 years in charge with a lot of success (in West Ham terms) with FA Cup wins in 1975 and 1980, the latter being the last time a club from outside the top flight has won the trophy. European Cup Winners Cup losing finalists in 1976 and League Cup finalists in 1981, losing after a replay, were also notable achievements, as was an outstanding promotion season in 1980-81 where the second division title was won by a large margin with 28 wins and only four defeats. His managerial highlight was in 1985-86 where we came so close to winning the league title, eventually finishing third, which was (and still is) our highest ever placing. This was arguably our best ever season, and we certainly played some terrific entertaining football which I enjoyed enormously.

I maintain to this day that the postponed games and subsequent fixture pile up were key factors in us not winning the title that season. In John Lyall’s autobiography Just Like My Dreams he even wrote “West Ham’s last five games spanned just ten days – a demanding schedule and hardly the fairest way to settle a nine month long Championship race.” Perhaps if the club had considered installing undersoil heating like a number of clubs had done by that time, we might look back upon 1985-86 as the season we finished as champions?

The low points were two relegation seasons in 1977-78 and 1988-89, the latter resulting in Lyall’s dismissal which many felt was not handled well by the club considering his 34 years of service and his success in charge. The programme had just a few short sentences as acknowledgement of his long period of time at the club.

He deserves credit, in addition to the trophies and finals for keeping together and attracting high class players, in particular following the first relegation. Has there ever been a better second tier side in English football in history than the one that contained Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Alan Devonshire, Trevor Brooking, Paul Goddard and David Cross in 1980-81?

A year after being sacked he resumed his football management career at Ipswich, and in just his second season in charge led them into the newly-formed Premier League as Second Division champions. After a couple of years at the helm, he moved upstairs, and resigned soon afterwards.

John Lyall died suddenly of a heart attack in April 2006. He would have been 77 on 24th February this year. Less than a week after his death West Ham won through to the FA Cup final, our first since 1980, when he was our manager. The one minute silence at the semi-final just a few days after he died was followed by the continuous chant of “Johnny Lyall’s claret and blue army,” showing the genuine affection of our fans, and the high regard in which he was held. The main gates at Upton Park were renamed the “John Lyall Gates” in 2009, and have been moved to the London Stadium.

John Lyall managed West Ham for 779 games in 15 years. In pure statistical terms he had a win percentage of 40%, the fifth best record, after Bonds 44%, Pardew, Paynter and Fenton (all 41%). But if the club had invested in the team after our best ever season in 1985-86, who knows how much success we might have had?

How can we judge the success of football managers? Win percentages? Lose percentages? Goals scored and conceded? Trophies won? Stronger position financially? Attracting bigger crowds? A higher league position than when he came? A combination of these factors? Also do we need to consider the resources available and division we play in? You cannot really compare different eras but if I had to pick a 1-2-3 on a mixture of the above criteria, then in my opinion Greenwood, Lyall and Bonds would have to be considered the most successful. I’ll let the reader choose the order, or indeed make their own choice of who has been our best manager.

But whoever you pick, John Lyall gave great service to our club, and was considered to be a true gentleman by everyone who met him. He will always be remembered as an innovative coach who continued the tradition of his predecessor, Ron Greenwood, of playing football the “West Ham Way”.

The Boy Never Quite Made It: Zavon Hines

A player who burst onto the scene, scored against Millwall but then faded away.

Boy Never Quite Made ItWest Ham prides itself as the ‘Academy of Football’ in deference to the success it has achieved over the years in bringing through talented young players from the youth system.  Most fans have a special place in their heart for home grown players but so often talented youngsters burst onto the scene only to fail to fulfil their promise.  In this series we look at some of those players who despite high hopes never quite made the grade at their boyhood club.  Today we look at the career of Zavon Hines; the only West Ham player ever to have a first name starting with the letter ‘Z’.

Commentators frequently refer to young players coming off the academy conveyor belt.  In truth if the West Ham academy were a conveyor belt it would be one producing London busses where nothing comes along for ages and then several arrive all at once.  During the closing years of the ‘naughties’ a new crop of young players were given West Ham debuts; a roll call that included Jack Collison, Freddie Sears, James Tomkins, Zavon Hines, Junior Stanislas and Josh Payne.  Internet chatter at the time would likely have been full of bright future forecasts for Upton Park whereas hindsight tells us that only Tomkins and Collison made any real impact at the club.

Zavon HinesHines had spent a brief spell out on loan at Coventry City before being given his West Ham debut, as a substitute for Valon Behrami, in a League Cup tie against Macclesfield in August 2008.  Hines was one of three goal scoring substitutes that day in a 4-1 victory.  A knee injury hindered progress during the remainder of the 2008/09 season but despite this he received a call-up from Jamaica for an international friendly in early 2009 although ultimately he did not play.  Hines later went on to represent England at U21 level, scoring two goals in two appearances.

At the start of the 2009/10 season Zavon was very much part of new manager Gianfranco Zola’s first team squad: scoring one of the goals, in extra time, during the infamous 3-1 League Cup against Millwall; giving Jamie Carragher the run around in a match against Liverpool; and then netting an injury time winner in a Premier League game against Aston Villa to haul the Hammers out of the bottom three.  That was to be his last goal for the West Ham as first injury struck again in January 2010 and then the team’s struggles in 2010/11 brought his West Ham career to an end.  In the summer of 2011 he declined the offer of a new contract and instead signed a deal with Burnley.  In a total of 31 appearances he had made 12 starts, scored 3 goals but only played a full 90 minutes on five occasions; each of these ending in defeat.

Hines has become something of an itinerant footballer since he left West Ham.  He failed to impress manager Eddie Howe at Burnley and made his way via Bournemouth (on loan) to Bradford City, Dagenham & Redbridge and now Southend United, where he signed a short term deal in January 2017 until the end of the season.  The probable highlight of his career was Bradford’s League Cup run in 2012/13 where he featured in both legs of the surprise semi-final win against Aston Villa and then in the final (as a second half substitute) with Swansea, which Bradford lost 5-0.  In the build-up to the final there were several newspaper features on Hines and how he had tried sports psychologists to rescue his failing career but whether it was injuries, aptitude or attitude he has never really become the player we might have expected.

In a career that has spanned 10 seasons he has appeared in just 140 games scoring 15 times.

My Favourite Games: Number 6 – West Ham 5:0 Burnley, August 26 1968

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played. Today early season swagger against Burnley.

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. Many 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.

Favourite Games 6

In August 1968 I was fourteen and a half. It was, of course, the school summer holidays, and I was soon to move into the fourth form at school. I think that is year 10 in modern terminology. I was on a caravan holiday in Weeley when news broke of the Russian (strictly speaking Warsaw Pact) invasion of Czechoslovakia on 21 August. Younger readers will only know of two countries now, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which were formed when the original country split (peacefully) in 1993. It was a major event in world history, and one that was discussed in current affairs lessons upon our return to school a couple of weeks later.

Another significant happening in history happened around the same time. England were playing Australia in the fifth test of the summer at the Oval. England were one down and needed to win the test to square the series. A famous test match ensued with England (or rather Derek Underwood) bowling out Australia on the final afternoon to win the match after a heavy rain storm had almost forced the abandonment of the game during the lunch interval. The large Oval crowd assisted in the mopping up process on this final day (Tuesday August 27).

Basil D’Oliveira, a mixed-race South African, had been playing cricket for England for a couple of years, and scored a magnificent 158 in the game and was one of the key reasons why England won the match. Despite this he was controversially omitted from the touring team to go to South Africa that winter, although later recalled to the party following an injury to Tom Graveney, and a public outcry. With the apartheid in South Africa at the time, the inclusion of a non-white South African was unacceptable to the hosts, and this led to the cancellation of the tour, and hastened South Africa’s isolation from world cricket soon afterwards. They didn’t return until 1991 after apartheid began to be dismantled. A further topic had been added to current affairs lessons on our return to school.

Meanwhile on the Monday evening of 26 August, West Ham had a home game against Burnley. It was a memorable game on a hot summer evening and we raced into a four goal lead by half time. We were playing some great stuff, and that first half was one of the best that I remember from that era. Martin Peters scored the opener, then Geoff Hurst added a couple before a teenage Trevor Brooking added a fourth. Shortly before Brooking’s goal, the referee had to go off the pitch injured. In those days we didn’t have a fourth official at games, so one of the linesmen took over the whistle, and a member of public (who was a qualified local referee) ran the line, dressed in his suit trousers, shirt and tie, as there was no spare kit for officials either! It wouldn’t happen today. To many observers Brooking’s goal was yards offside, but the deputy linesman dressed in his office attire, didn’t raise his flag, and maintained that the ball was last played by a Burnley player, with which the referee concurred, and the goal stood.

The Burnley players complained for ages, but I couldn’t see the point. They were already dead and buried in the game. Their chairman made quite a fuss the following day, and the whole thing was described, quite unnecessarily in my opinion, as a raging controversy. The referee had recovered by the start of the second half and resumed in charge. The deputy linesman had his ten minutes of fame, and made headlines being slated in the national newspapers the following day. Incidentally it wasn’t his first call up. He had been called upon in exactly the same circumstances just nine days earlier in our home game against Forest.

Brooking added our fifth goal with half an hour still to play, but we took our foot of the gas a little, and the game ended aa a convincing 5-0 win. It took us to the top of the Division One table (we eventually finished eighth), and was followed up with a 4-0 win over West Brom the following Saturday, and then a 7-2 victory over Bolton in the League Cup a few days later. But that wasn’t our highest score that season as we put eight past Sunderland in October. We scored 47 goals in our 21 home games in 1968-69, a figure only bettered by Manchester City, who finished in the bottom half! Burney finished 14th that year.

The West Ham team for the game was: Ferguson, Bonds, Charles, Peters, Stephenson, Moore, Redknapp, Boyce, Hurst, Brooking, Sissons. Roger Cross made his league debut coming on as a substitute for Sissons in the second half.

Number one in the charts in that memorable week in history was Mony Mony, by Tommy James and the Shondells, and other records close to the top were Fire, by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the Beach Boys with Do It Again, Tom Jones with Help Yourself, Dusty Springfield with I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten, the Bee Gees with I Gotta Get A Message to You. Simon and Garfunkel were in the top 20 with Mrs. Robinson, one of the songs from the soundtrack of the film The Graduate, which I greatly enjoyed watching (Dustin Hoffman had the leading role). Days by the Kinks was another great song I recall from that week’s chart.

By any stretch of the imagination, I don’t think that I could possibly include this season’s game at home to Burnley in any future favourite games feature!

This Week in Hammer’s History

FA Cup skirmishes and home debut goals for Hartson and Kitson in a windy Monday night match feature in this week’s Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryIn last week’s Hammer’s History we remembered the 1972 FA Cup 4th round replay with Hereford United, memorable for its midweek afternoon kick-off as a consequence of the ongoing miner’s strike affecting electricity supply.  Just a few days later it was straight on to the 5th round with an away trip to Huddersfield Town.  The Terriers played Manchester City in the 2016/17 competition this weekend aiming to reach the 6th round for the first time since the elimination of the Hammers in 1972.  This was an all First Division at the time but the Hammers, who had recently lost out in the epic League Cup semi-final to Stoke, were favourites to go through against a team who had not scored in their last four outings and were languishing second from bottom in the league.  League standings counted for nothing, however, as Huddersfield tore into the Hammers to take the lead midway through the first half.  West Ham managed to level before half-time through Pop Robson but three second half goals (including one from Frank Worthington) put the hosts in control and despite a late Clyde Best consolation the tie ended 4-2.  Huddersfield were beaten by Birmingham in the semi-final and finished the season bottom of the First Division.

Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp, Best, Hurst (Heffer), Brooking, Robson

In 2011, indifferent league form was again thrown aside in the FA Cup but on this occasion it was Avram Grant’s West Ham who were putting Eddie Howe’s Burnley to the sword.  The game marked a West Ham debut for Thomas Hitzlsperger some six months after signing on at Upton Park.  Der Hammer had begun his West Ham career in typical fashion by being injured for six months but it took him just 23 minutes to open his goal scoring account and set West Ham on the path to victory against Burnley.    Further goals from Carlton Cole (2) plus Winston Reid’s first for the club put the Hammers 4-0 up; a touch of comedy defending involving Wayne Bridge and Robert Green allowed Burnley to pull one back before Freddie Sears neat finish sealed a 5-1 victory.

Green, Reid, Tomkins, Jacobsen, Bridge, Sears, Parker, Noble, Hitzlsperger (Barrera), Cole (Spector), Ba (Piquionne)

It was 5-1 again against north-western opposition in the 5th round this time last year as West Ham eased past Championship side Blackburn Rovers.  Blackburn had gone ahead after 20 minutes through Ben Marshall but the lead was only to last 6 minutes as Victor Moses was allowed a clear run and shot to equalise.  Before half time a former French player scored from a trademark free kick to give West Ham a 2-1 interval lead.  The game was effectively over when Blackburn had a player sent off for two yellow card offences early in the second half and West Ham sealed the win with two goals from Emmanuel Emenike and another from the former French favourite.

Randolph, Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna (Oxford), Antonio, Kouyate, Obiang (Lanzini), Noble (Song), Moses, Payet, Emenike

In league action West Ham lost 4-2 at home in 1984 to next weekend’s opponents Watford at Upton Park.  After the previous round of matches the Hammers were an encouraging third in the league just behind Liverpool and Nottingham Forest but a cup defeat at Birmingham and then a run of poor league performances led to a gradual slip down the table in Trevor Brooking’s final season.

In 1997 West Ham were struggling at the wrong end of the table when they entertained Tottenham in the Monday night match.  On a very windy night in east London, West Ham gave home debuts to expensive new striker signings John Hartson and Paul Kitson.  It was Spurs, however, who took the lead though Teddy Sheringham’s header marking the first of five first half goals.  West Ham snatched the lead when Julian Dicks and then Kitson headed home from corners, Darren Anderton lobbed an equalizer past Ludek Miklosko, and a brave header from Hartson made it 3-2 at half-time.  In a nail biting second half David Howells equalized once again for Tottenham before Hartson was fouled in the area allowing Dicks to blast home the resultant penalty.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Ferdinand, Bowen, Moncur, Bishop, Kitson (Dowie), Hartson, Hughes   

This Week’s Hammer’s Birthdays

20 February        Jimmy Greaves                 77
20 February        Billy Jennings                     65
22 February        Paul Brush                           59
22 February        Shaka Hislop                       48
24 February        Clyde Best                           66
24 February        John Lyall                             (Died 2006)
25 February        Kevin Keen                         50

The No-Game Weekend Mishmash

As the team and manager head off to build sand castles in the air we track down the fake West Ham news from the internet.

MishmashEnforced international breaks and early cup exits serve to create a fragmented season and leave a massive thumb-twiddling void on a winter weekend.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and taking refuge in the shed on the pretext of rearranging your tools is perhaps the only chance of dodging an afternoon at the shops.

Without a match to preview the internet turns its attention away from fitness tests, possible formations, and pearls from the managerial press conference to concentrate on the ‘alternative facts’ that surround sport as well as politics.  Here are a few items picked up from the reported West Ham buzz.

Warm Weather Training

The first team squad have departed for a spot of warm weather training in Dubai in order to, according to the Official West Ham website, ‘hone their preparations’ – so we can be reassured that on their return the team will be much improved on how to prepare, which has to be good news.  It was pleasing to see from the training camp video clips that Andre Ayew was involved and had, therefore, recovered from the ‘emotional fatigue’ that kept him out of last weekend’s match-day squad.

I can recall Fat Sam doing similar warm weather training camps in the past as a reward for throwing FA Cup games but my memory is rather hazy as to whether the players returned champing at the bit and played with renewed vigour.  Interestingly, Sam wanted to take his current side to Dubai this week but the plan was vetoed by the Palace Board on the grounds that fans would not be best pleased given recent performances.  This seems to be rather twisted logic if it is believed that there is merit from such trips in terms of fitness team spirit; or maybe it is just a jolly.

Possibly the West Ham squad are also taking part in some of those excruciating, compulsory fun, team building games that I was forced to take part in during my own working career.  These could include such useful and pertinent activities as who can build the biggest free standing tower using only drinking straws (I reckon Winston Reid would win this) or having to guide a group of blindfolded teammates through a maze of static obstacles. On second thoughts that last one sounds like a variation of an attack versus defence exercise.

Transfer Mania

The recent closing of the January transfer window has not tempted the rumour industry to take a well-earned winter break to ensure better preparation for its grand re-opening in the summer.

As usual West Ham are linked with all and sundry and in the absence of any coherent transfer strategy it is difficult to judge whether all or any of these are credible or otherwise.  In the majority of cases the linked players are those at the end of their contracts at other Premier League clubs and looking for one last final payday.  I had hoped that we would be wise to such a short sighted strategy by now but who knows what is in the mind of the decision makers?  Apparently we now also have a preference for buying British born players while at the same time being reluctant to take a chance on players from the lower leagues.  For me, a transfer recruitment strategy based on a style of play that is independent of any single manager would seem the most sensible for the club in its present position.

On the other side of the transfer coin, comments made by Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini have triggered speculation that they may be on their way to pastures new.  I think we can take each of these with a pinch of salt at the moment.  How can Antonio know whether he will sign a new contract that might be offered in the summer until he has seen it?  To report this as talks having stalled or that he is uncertain is nonsense.   By the same token, is it unreasonable for Lanzini to suggest that he would like to return to River Plate one day?  If he continues to perform like he has over recent games there will be far more lucrative offers coming his way than anything River Plate can offer.  A return at the end of his career would seem most feasible.

The other trending (or heavily cut and pasted) story is that the manager has ‘lost patience’ with ‘misfit’ Arthur Masuaku and that he will be taking his handballs elsewhere next season.  On the face of it this again seems unlikely for a player who has shown promise but has been injured for most of the season.

The Manager’s Contract

A story that is unlikely to go away until the summer is whether manager Slaven Bilic gets a contract extension.  He is very popular with many fans and he comes across as a very warm, personable character who as an ex-player also knows and understands the club and its supporters.  All of this may well be true but ultimately the question is how far passion alone can take someone?  Has an ex-player ever made a rip-roaring managerial return to the club he played for?

I believe there is a strong correlation between money and league placing.  On average we should be finishing around 7th or 8th place as a matter of course; it should not be seen as over-achieving; I doubt that we have ever had an over-achieving manager and maybe that is part of the attraction of being West Ham.  In my mind Slaven has done a good job rather than a great one.  Sure the football has been better than his predecessor (although for large parts of this season it was not so different) but there remain concerns on tactics, selection, fitness and player recruitment; even if he is implicated in the latter rather completely responsible.

I am on the fence at the moment.  At least he has some further time to prove his worth and to demonstrate that he is capable of a longer term consistency and planning.  As a person he is certainly a top man but I am undecided as to whether he the managerial equivalent of the 5 blade razor; the best West Ham can get?

My Favourite Games: Number 5 – West Ham 4:2 Manchester City, March 23 1996

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played. Today beating Manchester City in 1996.

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.

Favourite Games 5

Sometimes lady luck runs your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve had more than my fair share of good fortune so I can’t complain. But there have been times when the luck hasn’t quite gone my way. On 23rd March 1996, we were playing at home to Manchester City who were struggling near the foot of the table at the time (and in fact they were relegated on goal difference at the end of the season). We visited Ladbrokes in Green Street on the way to the game as I fancied a bet on the correct score that day. Looking down their list I was looking for a value bet and thought that their odds on us winning 4-1 (80-1) were very generous. In those days they often put out some tempting, and realistic, correct score odds knowing how difficult it is to predict the score of a game. These days they are not usually so generous.

I put my five pounds on and we went in to see the game. I was with my dad and my son. Whenever I took my dad along we always had to buy seats at a low level as he didn’t like climbing the stairs to sit high up. So we had seats in the old West Stand lower just about level with the penalty area in the half where the Bobby Moore stand is. Slaven Bilic was playing for us and Steve Lomas, who came to us at a later date, was a City player at that time. Keith Cooper was the referee. City’s star player was Kinkladze and he was fouled early on for a penalty. I remember Ludo diving to his right to save it. About half way through the first half Iain Dowie scored with a header in front of the Bobby Moore stand, and 1-0 was the half time score. My bet wasn’t looking too hopeful with only one goal in the first half. I’d virtually forgotten about it.

In the second half Dowie headed his, and West Ham’s second goal from a Michael Hughes corner. Redknapp brought on Dani for Dumitrescu and Steve Lomas was sent off for two yellow cards. Ludo then blundered by dropping the ball allowing Niall Quinn to score an easy goal for 2-1.

There were about ten minutes left when Julian Dicks hit a trademark screamer from about 30 yards. From where we sat we were right behind the shot as it burst the net. 3-1. I remembered my bet and retrieved my betting slip from my pocket to look at it to make sure I had put it on correctly. Come on West Ham, just one more goal and £400 was on its way to me.

There were about five minutes left when Ian Bishop threaded a superb pass to Dani who ran on and tucked the ball past the keeper with his left foot. 4-1! This was unbelievable. OK West Ham you can ease up now! But they didn’t. They continued to attack sensing City were out on their feet. Hughes hit the post and Marc Reiper had an easy chance to score from the rebound but missed. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was looking forward to collecting my money!

The ninety minutes were up when the ball fell to Niall Quinn in our area. He swivelled and hit a superb left foot shot. Goal. Then Keith Cooper immediately blew his whistle for the end of the game. We didn’t even have time to kick off. To say I was gutted would be the understatement. It was a terrific game of football but you’ll forgive me for being a little disappointed.

The West Ham scorers that day were Dowie, Dicks and Dani. Have we ever had three “D” goalscorers in one game? Also in the team were Bilic, Bishop and Potts. Ludo had returned to play in goal after the late Les Sealey had made his one and only start between the sticks for us the previous week when we lost 3-0 at Newcastle. He did make one further appearance when he came on as a substitute for Ludo in the final game of the following season at Old Trafford. He had of course previously played for Manchester United, famously being picked for their FA Cup Final replay win in 1990, after their regular keeper Jim Leighton had a poor game in the first match against Crystal Palace.

Number one in the charts on that day was the Take That version of the old Bee Gees song, How Deep Is Your Love. Also in the top ten that week were Oasis with Don’t Look Back In Anger, Mark Morrison with Return of the Mack, and the Beatles with their second hit using the voice of John Lennon, many years after his death, with Real Love. The new chart always came out every Sunday then (I’m afraid I’m not up to date as to when it is changes these days), and the new number one on the day after the City game was Firestarter by Prodigy, which had gone straight in at the top after its release that week.

This Week in Hammer’s History

St Valentine’s Day massacres and 5th round cup success in the week 13 – 19 February in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryLove 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)