Five Favourite Unsung Hammer’s Heroes

A personal selection of West Ham players who barely get a mention in the litany of misty-eyed nostalgia.

By definition this is a very subjective list in that it relies on two assumptions;  one, that these were good players and two, that their efforts went largely unnoticed by the majority of West Ham fans.  In fact their status as unsung in largely in an historic context rather than during their time spent in a Hammer’s shirt.  Thus, none would likely ever feature in, or be anywhere near, any supporter’s all time favourite West Ham team.  Technically, I guess, to be truly unsung there shouldn’t be a terrace song about you either and, as far as I know, this is the case for each of my selections.

Using the accepted convention in such matters, in reverse order my nominations are:

5              Paul Goddard

Goddard’s inclusion in the list stems mainly from the fact that he was ultimately over-shadowed by the McAvennie/ Cottee partnership in the 1985/86 season that led to his inconspicuous and premature departure from the club the following season.  When he was signed in the aftermath of the 1980 FA Cup win, as a replacement for Stuart Pearson, it was for a club record fee of £800,000 and he quickly formed a lethal partnership with (the original Psycho) David Cross; which terrorised Division Two defences during that all-conquering promotion season of 1980/81.  Between them Goddard and Cross found the net fifty-six times in all competitions including a memorable run to the League Cup final against Liverpool, where Goddard opened the scoring in the replay at Villa Park.  A classy striker, who was excellent on the ball, a cool and clinical finisher and who would have featured highly in the assist tables had they existed at the time, Goddard made just over 200 appearances for West Ham between August 1980 and November 1986, scoring 71 times.  Injury curtailed his involvement in 1983/84 and then struck again at the start of 1985/86 when his absence inspired the pairing together of McAvennie and Cottee upfront.  In 1982 Goddard earned his solitary international appearance scoring the equalising goal for Ron Greenwood’s England in a Word Cup warm-up game against Iceland.  Unfortunately he did not make the cut for the Finals and was never to feature for his country again.  When transferred to Newcastle in 1986 it also set a new transfer record (£415,000) for his new club.

4              Trevor Morley

Mention Trevor Morley and most people immediately think of the infamous stabbing incident and lurid but unfounded ‘three in a bed’ stories involving team-mate Ian Bishop.  Morley and Bishop arrived at West Ham together in a December 1989 swap deal with Manchester City that saw winger Mark Ward head back north.  Despite scoring ten goals from his first eighteen games it was not enough to fire the Hammers back into the top flight at the first time of asking but promotion came a year later when he contributed a further twelve goals.  Morley was little used back in Division One partly because manager Billy Bonds preferred the Clive Allen/ Mike Small partnership and partly due to him missing two months of the season after being stabbed by his wife.  It turned out to be a unsatisfactory season all round as West Ham finished rock bottom and became one of the few clubs ever to be relegated from Division One to Division One.  The following season was Morley’s most successful with a 20 league goal tally that helped West Ham to earn promotion to the Premier League.  Thirteen goals in 1993/94 saw West Ham to a creditable mid-table finish while Morley was crowned as Hammer of the Year.    No goals from ten outings the following season ended his stay at Upton Park resulting in a free transfer to Reading at the conclusion of the 1994/95 season.  His last appearance being the Ludo Miklosko inspired home draw with Manchester United to deny them the title.

3              Peter Butler

Most often described as a journeyman footballer Butler strutted his stuff with nine different teams in all four divisions in a career that stretched from 1984 to 2000.  Essentially an inhabitant of unfashionable footballing locations such as Huddersfield, Bury, Notts County, Southend and Halifax, the call came in 1992 from the east-end of London to help newly demoted West Ham find their way back to the top, a feat which was successfully achieved.  Almost the stereotypical gritty northerner, Butler brought a no-nonsense, tough tackling, hard as nails attitude to the West Ham midfield, exactly what was needed in the slog that is the lengthy second tier season.  Butler had few pretensions regarding his own capabilities but demonstrated an economy in passing that involved winning the ball and giving it quickly and simply to the more creative players in the side.  Butler was a regular in the Hammer’s first Premier League campaign playing twenty six of forty two games and weighing in with one goal, scored in a 3-2 home win against Coventry City.  Although he kept his place for the opening games of the 1994/95 season he quickly fell out of favour and, with the arrival of Don Hutchison, he was sold to Notts County in October 1994 – for twice his original signing fee.  After his playing days Butler has had an eclectic and nomadic career as a coach in various Asian and African countries and is currently manager of the Botswana national team.

2              Tim Breacker

With a name that always reminded me of the ‘Breaker Breaker’ slang from the contemporaneous Citizen Band radio craze, Breacker is also the only Tim ever to have played for West Ham.  Signed from Luton Town in October 1990 he was the Hammer’s first choice right back (back in the days when we had one of those) for the best part of eight seasons.  He made just short of 300 appearances for West Ham (putting him at number thirty eight in the all-time rankings) in which he scored eight goals.   It is probably fair to say that during that time he was mostly unspectacular and yet you knew that he would always give his all.  He would bomb up and down the touchline for the entire duration of the game and although there was nothing flashy about his game he would run and tackle and run and put in crosses all afternoon.  The 1993/94 season was arguably his most successful playing forty times in the Hammer’s Premier League campaign and scoring three goals including the only goal of the game in a rare win at Goodison Park.  He also featured in every round of a promising FA Cup run which finally ended in a sixth round replay defeat to his old club, Luton Town of Division One; a match best remembered for a hat-trick by Scott Oakes, son of Showaddywaddy guitarist Trevor, and an uncharacteristic Steve Potts slip.  Since retirement from playing Breacker has had a variety of coaching jobs and is currently Chief Scout at Bolton Wanderers.

1              Ronnie Boyce

Ticker Boyce probably only qualifies as an unsung hero because he was from an era of West Ham history that was dominated by Moore, Hurst and Peters and supported by other headline makers such as Byrne and Sissons.  Affectionately known as ‘Ticker’ in recognition of his place as the heartbeat of the side Boyce spent a total of 37 years associated with West Ham in various capacities.  He possessed great work rate, covered every blade of grass but was also an astute passer of the ball.  Boyce made his league debut as a 17 year old in October 1960 and was still only 21 when he scored the winning goal in the 1964 FA Cup Final against Preston North End.  He only scored twenty nine goals in over 340 appearances (twenty sixth in the all-time rankings) for West Ham but was on fire in 1964 cup run having also scored two in the semi-final victory over Manchester United.  There was another winner’s medal the following year in the European Cup Winner’s Cup and it was another Boyce goal that kicked off the Hammer’s European adventure with the only goal of the game against La Gantoise in Belgium.  A one club man Boyce was rewarded with a testimonial in November 1972 against a Manchester United side featuring Bobby Charlton and George Best and although (unusually) Boyce did not score, West Ham ran out 5-2 victors on the night.  After his playing days Boyce had various roles coaching and scouting for the club right up until 1995.  He had one game as caretaker manager in 1990 after Lou Macari’s departure; a 2-2 draw away to Swindon Town.

This Week in Hammer’s History

Two Play Off final appearances conclude the Hammer’s History series as we look at the period from 22 to 30 May.

This Week Hammers HistoryIn the final instalment of this week in Hammer’s History we will take the liberty of slightly elongating the week to the nine days, 22 to 30 May, in order to capture the two Championship Play-Off Finals of 2004 and 2005.

The 2003/04 season was Alan Pardew’s first in the managerial hot-seat.  He joined on 18 October 2003 with the Hammers in 4th spot in the Championship and after an initial wobble they remained a top six occupant for the majority of the season without ever threatening the automatic promotion places; eventually finishing back where Pardew’s tenure had begun in 4th position.

The Play-Off final was an all-London affair against Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace, who owed their play-off spot to a late West Ham equaliser against Wigan in the final match of the regular season.  The match was played at the Millennium Stadium and, despite having secured a ticket, work commitments meant that I ended watching on TV in a Las Vegas bar at 6 in the morning.   After a frenetic opening the game settled into a cagey affair, with West Ham’s dominating possession but with few real chances at either end.  Palace took the lead when Stephen Bywater could only parry a shot from Johnson allowing the overweight Shipperley to nip in and score from close range.  West Ham had ‘goals’ from David Connolly and Bobby Zamora ruled out for offside, and a blatant foul on Michael Carrick in the area was ignored by the referee, in the aftermath but were unable to get back on level terms.  An abiding memory from the day (apart from the hostile atmosphere in the bar and the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon in the afternoon) were the strange substitutions by Pardew when he hauled off all three of his strikers once we had gone a goal down and were in desperate need of a goal.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Bywater, Dailly, Melville, Mullins, Repka, Carrick, Etherington, Lomas, Connolly (Hutchison), Harewood (Reo-Coker), Zamora (Deane)

A year later it was back to the same venue for another go, this time against old foes from the 1964 Cup Final, Preston North End.  In the league the Hammers had failed to impress and only confirmed their place in the Play-Offs on the last day when they scrambled into 6th spot; opponents Preston had finished one place higher and had completed a league double over West Ham.

It was Hammers who were quickest out of the blocks in the final with Tomas Repka’s shot against the post after four minutes the first of a handful of first half chances that went begging.  West Ham were also solid in defence and although Preston were able to threaten from set pieces the game remained scoreless at the break.  The multi-million pound breakthrough and winning goal came after 57 minutes as a Matthew Etherington cross was hooked home by Zamora.  There was late drama when Jimmy Walker had to be replaced by Bywater due to injury but the Hammer’s resisted a late Preston push for a leveller to reclaim top flight status amid huge sighs of relief.

Walker (Bywater), Repka, Ferdinand, Ward, Powell, Newton (Noble), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora (Dailly)    

This Week in Hammer’s History

A match that exceeded Ron Greenwood’s wildest hopes dominates the week of 15 to 21 May in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryBy this time of year the season is more often than not all over and in the week 15 to 21 May, West Ham have only played 17 games between the years 1958 to 2016.  However, the week does include a match that is arguably the Hammers greatest moment and finest ever achievement; victory in the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup Final.

In their first ever experience of European competition, West Ham had battled through to a final that was conveniently scheduled to be played at Wembley; the same venue where they had won the first major trophy in their history just twelve months previously.  The opponents were TSV Munich 1860 from West Germany who had recently made it into the newly formed Bundesliga at the expense of local rivals Bayern; the rules initially excluding two clubs from the same city competing in the new competition.  In fact TSV went on to be crowned Bundesliga champions in 1966 and runners-up in 1967.

The match, played on Wednesday 19 May 1965, was an exciting and open affair in front of a capacity Wembley crowd.  The first half saw chances at both ends but with Brian Dear and John Sissons unable to convert good chances and Jim Standen in fine form in the West Ham goal the match remained scoreless at the break.  The second half started in much the same vein until the breakthrough on 69 minutes when Ron Boyce’s precision pass played in Alan Sealey who fired home from inside the area.  There were wild scenes around the famous stadium but the dust had barely settled before Sealey scored again two minutes later, this time from close range as the ball ran loose following a Bobby Moore cross.  That is how it ended and for the second successive year Moore lifted a trophy at the top of the 39 steps as the Hammers became only the second English club to triumph in Europe.

Standen, Kirkup, Burkett, Peters, Brown, Moore, Sealey, Boyce, Hurst, Dear, Sissons

Championship Play-Off games are something that have started to feature prominently this week in more recent years .  In both 2004 and 2005 there were semi-finals against Ipswich Town to contend with and on both occasions the Hammers emerged victorious to book a place in the Play Off Final.  The home game in 2004 is particularly memorable for the electric atmosphere generated at Upton Park and capped off by Christian Dailly playing through the pain of a ball in the genitals to stroke home the winning aggregate goal.

The most recent Play Off Final appearance took place this week in 2012 when Sam Allardyce’s West Ham faced Blackpool at Wembley.  Both teams had been relegated the previous season and West Ham had easily beaten the Tangerines both home and away during the regular league season; as well as finishing eleven points ahead of them in the final standings.  The Final though was a different kettle of seaside fish altogether and it was Blackpool who edged the early exchanges and fashioned the better chances until West Ham took the lead through an accomplished Carlton Cole strike.  After the goal the Hammers took control and comfortably took their advantage into the break.  Within two minutes of the re-start, though, Blackpool were back on level terms courtesy of a Tom Ince goal.  The remainder of the game became scrappy and stretched, as both sides sought the multi-million pound winner, and with the match heading towards extra time it was Ricardo Vaz Te who settled it for West Ham when he drilled in from 12 yards out.

Green, Demel (Faubert), Reid, Tomkins, Taylor, Collison, Nolan, Noble, O’Brien (McCartney), Vaz Te, Cole

An oversight from last week’s review of history was the failure to acknowledge the final appearance in a West Ham shirt by Sir Trevor Brooking; this taking place in a match on 14 May 1984 against Everton.  This was the last of 643 appearances during which Trevor scored 102 goals; West Ham’s tenth all-time top scorer.

On a final note of trivia this week also saw the Upton Park crowd break the world mass bubble blowing record prior to the end of season game against Middlesbrough in 1999.

This Week in Hammer’s History

Two FA Cup finals and final day dramas against Manchester United in the week 8 to 14 May in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryOn the 10th of May, 1980 West Ham competed in their fourth First Division versus Second Division FA Cup Final at Wembley.  In contrast to the two trophy wins in 1964 and 1975, this time it was the Hammers who were the underdogs from the lower league.  West Ham had experienced an indifferent season in the second tier finishing in 7th place and earning criticism from Brain Clough for prioritising the FA Cup over promotion back to the First Division.  Opponents Arsenal were the current cup holders, were 4th in the First Division and had reached the final of the European Cup Winner’s Cup as well as the FA Cup.

The match was not the most entertaining spectacle although the day remains totally memorable.  Arsenal were a very defensively minded outfit at the time and West Ham manager John pulled off a tactical masterstroke by withdrawing Stuart Pearson into midfield and leaving David Cross to play as a lone striker; a ploy which stifled what creativity Arsenal had to offer in Brady and Rix.  The only goal of the game came on 12 minutes when Alan Devonshire got around the back of the Arsenal defence and put in a cross that pin-balled between Cross, Pearson and Arsenal’s Willie Young before coming to Trevor Brooking who stooped to head home.  Chances after that were few and far between and the second most memorable action of the game was when Young ‘perfected’ the professional foul by hacking down Paul Allen when the 17-year-old was clean through on goal with two minutes remaining.  West Ham stood firm to lift the trophy for third time and remain the last team from outside the top flight to do so.

Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Allen, Pearson, Cross, Brooking, Pike

in 2006, the FA Cup final was still being played in Cardiff while a behind schedule Wembley was being re-developed.  West Ham’s part in one of the most exciting finals in living memory has become largely overlooked after the largely Liverpool leaning media re-branded the affair as the ‘Gerrard Final’.  Despite the game being an all Premier League contest, newly promoted West Ham were once again underdogs.  However, they got off to a flying start and within 30 minutes were two goals to the good; the first an own goal when Carragher  planted a Lionel Scaloni cross into his own net; and the second from Dean Ashton after Reina had fumbled a Matthew Etherington shot.  A lack of concentration followed and within minutes Liverpool had had a goal disallowed and then pulled one back through Cisse to make it 2-1 at the break.

Liverpool dominated possession at the start of the second period and equalised when Gerrard drilled home a Crouch knock down but surprisingly West Ham regained the lead when Paul Konchesky’s cross sailed straight into the top of the net passed a confused Raina.  The game stayed that way as the game entered added time when Liverpool equalised once more in controversial circumstances.  West Ham had put the ball into touch to allow treatment to an injured Liverpool player and from the resulting unsporting throw-in Liverpool immediately put Scaloni under pressure and his poor clearance led directly to Gerrard’s long range leveller.  There were to be no further goals in normal and extra time and with many players suffering from cramp and the game ended 3-3.  There then followed a penalty shoot-out which Liverpool won 3-1.

Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun, Fletcher (Dailly), Reo-Coker, Etherington (Sheringham), Ashton (Zamora), Harewood

Back to league action and at the end of the 1994/95 Premier League season West Ham faced successive home games against Liverpool and Manchester United.  In a midweek fixture, two Don Hutchison goals helped the Hammers beat Liverpool 3-0 to confirm their top flight survival for another year and then at the weekend found themselves at the centre of a final day drama for the title between Manchester United and Blackburn.  A first half strike from Michael Hughes and an inspired display from keeper Ludek Miklosko denied the Red Devils the win they needed to snatch the title which found its way to Ewood Park instead.

It was the reds of Manchester again on the final day of the 2006/7 great escape season.  Manchester United had already been crowned champions as West Ham went in search of the point that would ensure safety.  In the event the Hammers took all three courtesy of a Carlos Tevez goal on the stroke of half time.  It had been a close shave for the Hammers but ultimately their cutting edge was better than eleven blades.

Finally, this week marks the first anniversary of the final game at Upton Park where goals from Sakho, Antonio and Reid fired West Ham to a famous end of an era victory, once again over Manchester United.

This Week in Hammer’s History

A trophy at last, the final straight in 86 and dodgy lasagna feature in the week 1 – 7 May in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryThe first week of May in Hammer’s History includes the first two of West Ham’s FA Cup successes.  Having waited almost 70 years for any sign of a major trophy, the duck was broken on 2 May 1964 when first division Hammers overcame the stubborn resistance of second division Preston North End to lift the famous trophy for the first time.  West Ham were strong favourites going into the game but twice found themselves trailing to their lower league opposition.  With the game looking destined for extra time Ronnie Boyce popped up to nod in the winner.  A more comprehensive account of this memorable day has previously been featured in our Favourite Games series.

Standen, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Moore, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Boyce, Sissons

While in 1964 I had to make do with watching the game on a small black and white TV set, followed by attending the open-top bus parade the following morning, in 1975 I was thrilled to attend a first ever FA Cup Final in person.  Once again it was first versus second division as West Ham took on Fulham in an all-London affair.  There was an added fascination to the match in that all-time claret and blue hero, Bobby Moore, was now appearing in the white of Fulham.    The final was not the greatest of spectacles and, personally, I have stronger memories of the sixth round win at Arsenal and the semi-final replay against Ipswich than I do of the final itself.  Maybe the occasion got to me!  Nevertheless, Alan Taylor put the seal on his fairy-tale season by scoring the two goals that once again saw the West Ham ribbons tied to the trophy.

Day, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Lock, Jennings, Paddon, Taylor, Brooking, Holland

A year later and West Ham had unexpectedly made it to the final of the European Cup Winner’s Cup; a game against Anderlecht played at the notorious Heysel Stadium.  Pat Holland put West Ham a goal up just before the half hour when he got on the end of a Billy Bonds knock down from a Graham Paddon cross.  It looked like the Hammers would go into the break with the advantage until a misjudged backpass by Frank Lampard found its way to Rensenbrink to equalise.  In the second period, the wonderful Frankie Van Der Elst (later to be a Hammer) gave Anderlecht the lead but a Keith Robson header, from a Trevor Brooking cross, restored parity.  The game then turned on a very harsh penalty awarded for a foul by Holland.  Rensenbrink converted from the spot and with West Ham committed forward Van Der Elst scored again to end the game at 4-2 in the Belgian side’s favour.

Day, Coleman, Lampard (Taylor), Bonds, Taylor, McDowell, Holland, Paddon, Jennings, Brooking, Robson

It was also the final weekend of the season in 1986 and probably the only time that West Ham have gone into it with a chance of winning the title.  The Hammer’s did what they had to in a 3-2 win at The Hawthorns (against relegated West Bromwich Albion) but were let down by a Chelsea home defeat against ultimate Champion’s Liverpool.

The end of the 2011/12 season required third placed West Ham to participate in two Championship Play Off semi-final matches against Cardiff.  West Ham came away as comfortable victors winning 2-0 away (Collison 2) and 3-0 at Upton Park (Nolan, Vaz Te, Maynard) to set up a final encounter with Blackpool.

Finally, and appropriately given Friday’s opponents, this week in 2006 was the setting for the famous Lasagna-gate game.  Martin Jol’s Tottenham side visited Upton Park needing to match Arsenal’s result on the final Sunday afternoon of the season to claim their inaugural Champion’s League place.  Following a Saturday night buffet of dodgy lasagna the Spurs players started going down quicker than Dele Alli in the penalty area.  Despite desperate efforts to delay the game by several hours it was decided it had to go ahead as scheduled rather than asking supporters to spend several more hours in the pub.  Carl Fletcher gave West Ham the lead only for Defoe to equalise but with the poorly Spurs players flagging, Yossi Benayoun struck with 10 minutes remaining to win the game for West Ham.  Arsenal had won 4-2 against Wigan and so the Spurs dream lay in pieces at the bottom of the toilet bowl.

Notable Birthdays

1 May         Marc Vivien Foe           d. 2003
5 May         Yossi Benayoun            37
7 May         Ian Perace                     43
7 May         Steve Potts                    50

This Week in Hammer’s History

A first relegation, fixture backlog, Euro success and the end of an era feature in the week 24 – 30 April in Hammer’s history.

This Week Hammers HistoryThere was a life lesson to be learned in the week 24 to 30 April in Hammer’s History when in 1978 West Ham experienced what was, for me, a first relegation.  All of my West Ham memories had been as a top flight club and as far as I was concerned that was how it was always going to be.  There had been scares and scrapes in the past but we had always managed to slip clear in good time and this was a team that 2 years earlier had featured in a European final.

Before West Ham’s final game of the season in 1978 they sat 18th out of 22 clubs.  A midweek win at Middlesbrough had briefly seen the Hammers rise to a season high 17th and escape was still possible on the final day even though rival teams still had more games to play.  The opponents at Upton Park were Liverpool and the West Ham desperately needed to take something from the game.  The first half was an evenly contested affair until shortly before the break a misplaced Pop Robson pass heralded an incisive Liverpool move that ended in a Terry McDermott goal.  West Ham responded with spirit in the early stages of the second half but when David Fairclough outpaced Billy Bonds to make it 2-0 it was game over.  A Wolves victory over Manchester United and a point for QPR on the same day effectively sealed the Hammer’s fate.

Relegation back then did not mean a change of manager or a file sale of players and John Lyall was able to rebuild around the talents of Brooking, Devonshire, Bonds, Martin, Lampard and Cross; the core of the team that would go on to win our last major trophy in 1980 and evolve into one that earned our highest ever league finish in 1986.  It seems unthinkable now but during this week in 1986 West Ham played three home games in five days to record victories over Coventry (1-0; Cottee), Manchester City (1-0; Stewart) and Ipswich (2-1; Dickens, Stewart).  By the end of the week West Ham sat in second place, four points behind Liverpool with a game in hand but just two to play.

The same eleven players featured in all three matches: Parkes, Stewart, Parris, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Ward, McAvennie, Dickens, Cottee, Orr.  Goddard came on as a substitute to replace Orr in the Ipswich game.

Heading back to 1965 and possibly one of West Ham’s finest ever performances away to Real Zaragoza in the semi final second leg of the European Cup Winner’s Cup.  Holding a slender 2-1 lead form the first leg, the Hammers were underdogs against the Spaniards who packed an array of attacking talent and would be fully expected to score.  To make matters worse West Ham had lost playmaker Johnny Byrne to an injury sustained while playing for England three days earlier.  Real Zaragoza dominated the early stages and took the lead after 23 minutes with the Hammers were in real danger of crashing out.  However, a disciplined defensive performance, led by a supreme Bobby Moore, and tactical half-time changes allowed West Ham to claw their way back into the game and after 55 minutes Sissons got on the end of a Dear pass to equalise.  The Hammers held on for a draw and booked their place in the Wembley final against TSV Munich 1860.

Standen, Kirkup, Burkett, Peters, Brown, Moore, Boyce, Sealey, Hurst, Dear, Sissons

One final match to mention is the game played on 30 April 1988 which was notable as the very last of the record breaking 799 appearances for West Ham by William Arthur Bonds.

This Week in Hammer’s History

End of season highs and lows plus an FA Cup semi final appearance in the week 17 – 23 April in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryAlthough the season can now extend well into the month of May, in days past the league was often all over by the end of April leaving the season finale FA Cup Final scheduled for the first Saturday in May.  And with Easter out of the way by the week of 17 to 23 April in Hammer’s History we are very much into the tail end of the season.

In the Glen Roeder relegation season of 2003, West Ham were famously demoted with a record haul of 42 points, 16 ahead of next bottom West Bromwich Albion and two behind Sam Allardyce’s surviving Bolton Wanderers.  After the dust had settled the one game we could look back on as having sealed our fate was the game against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on 19 April.  A tense match was won on the verge of half-time when Jay-Jay Okocha was allowed to run 40 yards with the ball before thundering a shot past David James in the Hammer’s goal.  To add insult to injury Ian Pearce received a red card in the final minute.

An relegation escape attempt that had a happier ending took place in 2007 when Alan Curbishley’s side, featuring Carlos Tevez, recovered from successive defeats, against Sheffield United and Chelsea, to bag three points at Upton Park from next weekend’s visitors and perennial party-poopers Everton.  The only goal of the game being a spectacular 20 yard strike from Bobby Zamora.

In the fixture backlog of the 1985/86 season West Ham were playing two games every week and this particular week was no exception.  On Saturday goals from Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie secured a 2-0 win away to Watford and on the following Monday the Hammer’s entertained Newcastle United.

The Newcastle game is best remembered for an Alvin Martin hat-trick with each goal scored against a different goalkeeper.  It was surprisingly also the only West Ham hat-trick during the entire epic league campaign.  The game ended 8-1 in West Ham’s favour with further scores from Ray Stewart, Neil Orr, Frank McAvennie, Paul Goddard and a Glenn Roeder own goal.  Alvin’s first goal was a close range volley in the 3rd minute past regular keeper Martin Thomas; his second a header past centre half Chris Hedworth who had taken over from the injured Thomas at half-time and; his third a penalty (donated by regular spot-kicker, Ray Stewart) fired past Peter Beardsley who had by then taken over the gloves after Hedworth too was injured.  Watching a replay of the game it always amuses me how at 7-1 down with 3 minutes to play Newcastle protest so vehemently about the penalty award; extinguishing, I guess, any hopes of a comeback.

Parkes, Stewart, Parris, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Ward, McAvennie, Dickens (Goddard), Cottee, Orr

Finally this week, it is FA Cup semi-final time in 2006 as West Ham take on Middlesbrough at Villa Park.  The game was played during the week following the death of John Lyall which created an additional emotional atmosphere the travelling Hammer’s supporters.  Boro had the best of a goal-less first half but their strike duo of Hasselbaink and Yakubu, often the scourge of West Ham,  were unable to find a way past the well-drilled defence.  The Hammer’s came more into the game during the second period and as time went on increasingly looked the likelier to score, which they ultimately did in a pleasing yet largely direct manner.  Anton Ferdinand played a long ball from inside his own half, the ball was headed on and down by Dean Ashton, to where Marlon Harewood held off defender Gareth Southgate and fired a rocket into the top of the net.  West Ham had sealed a final appearance against Liverpool and at the same time booked a Uefa Cup place for the following season.

Hislop, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Collins, Konchesky, Benayoun, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Newton), Harewood, Ashton (Zamora)

Notable Birthdays

22 April    Alan Sealey             d. 1996
23 April    Eddie Bovington    76