I have witnessed so many great games since I started watching West Ham in 1958. They are remembered for different reasons, the importance of the game, the goals scored, and the spine-tingling atmosphere generated by our fans. In this article and two that will follow, I will recall three of my favourite games (the winning FA Cup Finals), although to be absolutely honest, none of the three will be remembered for the quality of the football played, but they all had great endings. I have seen us win three finals, the last being in 1980, so none of our fans under the age of 40 would have been there to witness these great days.
In 1964 I was ten years old and still at Junior School. Our FA Cup run was unremarkable in the early rounds. In Round 3 we disposed of Charlton (3-0) at Upton Park, and then in the fourth round Leyton Orient were beaten by the same score at Upton Park in a replay after a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road. We then won 3-1 at Swindon in Round 5, before an exciting 3-2 win over Burnley in the quarter-final (see favourite games 7). Nobody expected us to beat Manchester United in the semi-final. They had beaten us at Upton Park 2-0 the week before the game, despite resting a number of their key players. But they were duly put to the sword at Hillsborough with a 3-1 win, courtesy of two goals from Ronnie Boyce, and another from Geoff Hurst.
The final at Wembley on the first Saturday in May was against Preston North End, and, in a reversal of the semi-final odds, this time we were strong favourites to win. Preston were a second division side and few gave them a chance. But on the day we didn’t play particularly well, and we had to come from behind twice to win the game. After Preston’s first goal in the tenth minute, John Sissons netted the equaliser almost from the restart. Preston then scored again as half-time approached and we went into the interval behind. We needed an early goal in the second half and Geoff Hurst duly obliged with his seventh goal in our cup run. He had scored in every round except the quarter-final. Ironically Hurst’s goal went in off the underside of the bar, and only just crossed the line, a feat he was to repeat in the World Cup Final, a little over two years later! It was looking like the game was going into extra-time when Ronnie Boyce headed home the winner in the last minute.
There were some interesting facts that emerged from the game. Howard Kendall, playing for Preston a month short of his eighteenth birthday, became the youngest player at the time to appear in an FA Cup final. John Sissons, only slightly older, became the youngest player to score in a final at the time. Seven of the West Ham team had surnames beginning with B; Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Brabrook, Boyce and Byrne. Standen, Moore, Hurst and Sissons made up the rest of the XI. We scored three goals in every round of the competition including the final. We only used 11 players to win the cup; the same 11 played in every round. Fewer players appear to have been injured in those days! Compare that to West Ham’s injury record in recent times. All 11 players were English.
As you can see, the programme cost one shilling (5p), and a standing ticket for the game on the old Wembley terraces, cost seven and sixpence (37.5p).
And for me personally, some interesting dates were features of our cup games in 1964, and part of the reason I remember the build up to our first ever FA Cup win. The first leg of our League Cup semi-final against Leicester was played on my birthday (February 5), the fifth round of the FA Cup was on my dad’s birthday (February 15), the quarter final was played on leap day (29 February), and our semi-final win was on my mum’s birthday (March 14).
The number 1 in the charts at the time was World Without Love by Peter and Gordon. The Searchers were at 2 with Don’t Throw Your Love Away. The previous number 1, Can’t Buy Me Love by the Beatles was beginning its descent down the chart, and Millie was at 5 with My Boy Lollipop. Other notable acts in that week’s chart were Gerry & The Pacemakers, Doris Day, Manfred Mann, The Rolling Stones, the Hollies, Roy Orbison and Cliff Richard.