There have been so many great games in the last 58 years and many are described in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford. They are remembered for different reasons, 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.
How many people can claim to have seen West Ham score a goal on February 29? Of course the date only arrives every four years, and even then there may not be a game on that day. In my 58 years of watching the team there have only been three games on that date. In 1972 we lost 3-0 at Sheffield United, and in 1992 we lost 2-0 to Everton at Upton Park. The only other game played on a leap day was in 1964 and it was a cracker.
I was ten years old, and I remember turning up at Upton Park at 11am with my dad to queue to get in at mid-day for the 1964 FA Cup quarter final against Burnley that kicked off at 3pm (as all games did in those days). We stood very close to the half way line beneath the West Stand at the very front crushed against the wall and saw a famous 3-2 victory with two goals from Budgie Byrne and another from John Sissons (an own goal some believe, but we didn’t have the dubious goals panel in those days). This preceded our semi-final victory over Man. United (3-1) and Preston (3-2) in the final. In fact three was the magic number in that year’s FA Cup run as we scored three goals in every round on the way to winning the trophy. It was the first time we’d won a major competition in my lifetime, and of course it hasn’t happened many times since!
Back to the game itself, and I was a very disappointed young boy in the first half. John Connelly, an England international, and who two years later would be part of the successful World Cup winning squad, had scored an early goal with a dribble past at least three of our defenders before lashing the ball home. Burnley still led 1-0 at the interval, and it looked like it wasn’t going to be our day.
We pushed forward in the second half, and with nearly an hour of the game gone our pressure eventually paid off when a cross from John Sissons was turned into his own net by a Burnley defender. Then came a goal that I’ll never forget. A team move started by Bobby Moore, and involving Geoff Hurst and Peter Brabrook was finished off by Johnny Byrne with a spectacular volley. It was one of the great goals seen at Upton Park, although I doubt that it was captured on film. Despite being an FA Cup quarter final game, very few games were recorded for TV in those days.
A few minutes later, Byrne scored another to put us 3-1 up, although this was contentious in that many thought he had fouled a Burnley defender to win the ball, before he rounded the keeper to sidefoot the ball into an empty net. Burnley pulled a goal back to make it 3-2 after a mistake by Jim Standen in our goal, but we held on for a famous victory.
The pop chart on February 29 was headed by an Irish trio called the Bachelors with a song called Diane. It was their only chart topper, although they had a few records in the charts in the 1960s. Cilla Black was at number 2 with Anyone Who Had A Heart, a future number one, whereas a previous number one was at number three, Needles and Pins by the Searchers. The Dave Clark Five were at number 4 with Bits and Pieces. This was their follow up song to Glad All Over which is sung by the Palace fans today. Gerry and the Pacemakers were at six with I’m The One, which reached number 2. This was the following record to three number ones, the last of which was You’ll Never Walk Alone, famously sung of course at Anfield. Other notable chart songs at the time included 5-4-3-2-1 by Manfred Mann, and the Hippy Hippy Shake by the Swinging Blue Jeans.