I have witnessed so many great games in the last 58 years. They are remembered for different reasons, the importance of the game, the goals scored, and the spine-tingling atmosphere generated by our fans. I remember this one especially for seeing one of the great West Ham performances, a seven-nil thrashing of one of the top teams at the time. Leeds United today are down in the Championship, but in the 1960s they were one of the best teams in England. They had finished as runners-up in Division One the previous season (and the season before that), and were to finish fourth at the end of the 1966-67 season. In fact, from the mid-1960s for a period of ten or so seasons, they never finished out of the top four, and were champions twice. On so many occasions they were the perennial runners-up, although their tactics were not favoured by most fans throughout the country, and they were hated by many. And, as I grew up in the 1960s I remember fondly the music in the charts at the time.
In those days the League Cup (now called the EFL Cup) was taken more seriously by the top sides, all of whom put out strong sides throughout the competition in an attempt to win one of the major trophies available. Although we were languishing in the bottom half of the table throughout the season, and eventually finished 16th, we beat our North London neighbours, Tottenham, with a Geoff Hurst goal in Round 2. In the third round we comfortably disposed of Arsenal, 3-1, with two further goals from Hurst, and one from Peters. Two days before the fourth round game at home to Leeds we had put six past Fulham in the League (Hurst 4, Peters 2), so we were in fine goalscoring form. That season’s League Cup was the first to culminate in a Wembley final, as previously the final was held over home and away legs, and it appeared that we were keen to get there, especially as we had reached the final the season before, but lost out to West Brom in the two-legged final.
Few expected us to beat Leeds, and nobody anticipated the rout that was about to take place on that cold November Monday night. Geoff Hurst, fresh from his never to be forgotten hat-trick in the summer World Cup final, scored 41 goals in the season, and Leeds were on the end of one of his three hat-tricks that campaign. John Sissons, a wonderful left-winger, who never perhaps achieved what many thought he would in football, also weighed in with a hat-trick that night, and Peters scored the other goal. Leeds United, and in particular their manager, Don Revie, were shell-shocked.
Leeds fielded the same side that had beaten Arsenal 3-1 at Highbury just two days earlier, but their uncompromising defence was swept aside by brilliant attacking football. We were capable of doing this from time to time, but couldn’t manage it regularly. However, on this night everything clicked. Sissons scored the first after just two minutes, and went on to complete his hat-trick within half an hour. Hurst added a fourth and we were 4-0 up at the interval. We came out in the second half and didn’t take our foot off the pedal. Hurst added the fifth goal on the hour, Peters the sixth ten minutes later, and then Hurst completed his hat-trick with a powerful left foot drive reminiscent of England’s fourth goal in the World Cup final a few months earlier. There was still more than a quarter of an hour to go and the crowd wanted eight.
There was no official man of the match in those days, but it was generally felt that Budgie Byrne was that man, pulling all the strings in a breathtaking performance that was highly acclaimed by all, including Ron Greenwood, our manager. It was surprising therefore to see Byrne leave the club just a few months later and return to Crystal Palace.
Billy Bremner was booked for a couple of heavy challenges on Eddie Bovington, including the malicious use of an elbow. Bovington never retaliated and was reported to have told Bremner “we are leading seven-nil you know, Billy”. Legend has it that the Leeds players didn’t go to bed that night at their hotel, but stayed up until morning discussing their dismal performance.
Number one in the charts that week was Reach Out I’ll Be There, by the Four Tops. The Hollies were at two with Stop, Stop, Stop, and the Troggs at three with I Can’t Control Myself. Other notable acts in that week’s top twenty were Hermans Hermits with No Milk Today, Manfred Mann with Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James, I’m A Boy by The Who, and a future number one, the Beach Boys, with one of their all-time classics, Good Vibrations.
We went on to beat Blackpool 3-1 in the quarter final, but went out in the two-legged semi-final to West Brom once again. The tie was virtually all over in the first leg when we went down 4-0 at the Hawthorns, and we could only manage a draw in the return leg. West Brom went to Wembley to contest the final against third division QPR. The Baggies led the final 2-0 at the interval, but a wonderful comeback inspired by Rodney Marsh saw QPR win the game 3-2.