West Ham visit White Hart Lane to collect three points

If you are a football fan and follow West Ham, and if you are old enough, cast your mind back to May 1981 almost 38 years ago. If you aren’t old enough then you will have missed a significant change in English football. The 1980-81 season was just drawing to a close and ended with Aston Villa as Division One champions on 60 points, and Ipswich Town runners-up with 56 points. The Premier League was still more than a decade away, and in those days the four divisions of English football were called, very logically, Divisions 1, 2, 3 and 4.

60 points I hear you say. How could they have possibly finished as champions with such a low number of points? The answer is that 1980-81 was the final season in English football where, if you won a game you picked up only two points.

West Ham finished that season as champions of Division 2, the season after they were the last team from the second tier of English football to win the FA Cup when they beat high-flying Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley on May 10 1980 with Trevor Brooking’s infamous diving header. We ran away with the Division 2 Championship by 13 points (a massive margin when there were only 2 points for a win). We won 19 and drew 1 of our 21 home games, whilst away from home we won 9 and drew 9. That means we lost just four league games in the season and had a record points haul of 66. We also reached the final of the League Cup, unluckily losing a replay to Liverpool, and reached the quarter-final of the European Cup Winners Cup before losing to Dinamo Tbilisi.

It’s hardly surprising that we ran away with the Division 2 title when you look at the calibre of footballers on our books. We had probably the best team ever playing at that level, either before or since, with “international quality” players including Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Paul Goddard and David Cross, all of whom barely missed a game meaning that we could field almost unchanged line-ups every week. In addition to those we had Pat Holland, Jimmy Neighbour, and the only ever-present outfield player Geoff Pike. In many ways, although we were only in the second tier, it was one of the best ever teams I’ve seen in my 60 years of following the club, and I’d love to see a similar quality throughout the team now.

So, following that record breaking season we moved into Division One and began with a home game against Brighton enjoying one of their rare forays into the top flight. The excitement of our return was quickly forgotten though as we struggled to impress in a 1-1 draw with Ray Stewart scoring a penalty as all we had to show from the game. However this all changed just four days later as we crushed our North London neighbours 4-0 at White Hart Lane. The game was a personal triumph for David Cross who had scored 33 goals in all competitions in our promotion season, including 22 in the league. He bagged all four goals in the game which will also be remembered for the very first time we collected three points in a match.

This was just the start of a terrific run where we remained unbeaten until mid-October, and led the first division for much of September. It was December before we lost our second game that season, and another record breaking campaign was on the cards. However in typical West Ham fashion we were unable to retain our consistency throughout a whole season and eventually finished 9th. We only lost two of our 21 home games that season which was fewer than any other team (Liverpool the champions lost 4) but our away form let us down with 10 defeats. However we will never forget that wonderful result at Tottenham and our very first three point haul in a game of football.

So why did the “powers that be” decide to make a change to award three points for a win instead of two? After all two points for a win had been in existence for over 100 years, and it seemed quite logical too. It stemmed from the days of challenge matches where two teams competed for a prize pot with the winner taking all, and if it was a draw the spoils were split equally. This principle went unchallenged for a century but by 1980 football was in serious trouble. Crowds had almost halved from their 1950s heyday and something needed to be done to bring them back. So why had attendances dwindled so much? Many blamed the recession which gave the footballing public a stricter sense of priorities. The increased cost of admission, getting to a match, and the continuing issue of crowd violence all played its part. But the football authorities believed that dull play was considered to be the key problem, and they set up a working party under the chairmanship of Jimmy Hill, an influential football figure in the latter half of the twentieth century, to try to resolve the problem. Their suggestion, which still operates today, was to increase the reward for a win to three points.

Many people accepted that this change would stop teams “settling for a draw” and believed that they would go all out for a win to collect additional points. It was felt that this would reduce the number of drawn games as a result. Some had other views though and Arsenal manager Terry Neill suggested that a team who went one goal up would want to sit on their lead more than they might have before the points for a win increase. Certainly, Arsenal became famous for their 1-0 wins for many years to follow.

But I would question the decision to increase points for a win, and the theory that drawn games are necessarily dull just because no team has won the game. Rugby Union, for example, in an attempt to improve the game as a spectacle, awards additional points for tries scored. Might it have benefitted football if instead they had awarded additional points for goals scored to reward attacking (and hence entertaining) play?

The irony is that in the season that followed the introduction of three points for a win there were more draws than the previous season and fewer goals scored in the top flight! And there is little evidence that three points for a win has changed the mindset of teams or the eventual outcome of titles (although Blackburn Rovers wouldn’t have been champions in the mid-1990s if two points for a win still existed).

Nevertheless all West Ham fans of a certain age will always remember our first three point haul. What chance of a repeat this weekend? A win of any kind would be welcome, but a win of that magnitude has never been repeated, and bookmakers’ will offer you virtually any odds you care to ask for to see another 4-0 victory at Tottenham.

West Ham are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Recalling seasons 1958-59 and 1959-60, which included a “memorable” visit from Huddersfield Town

Having been a regular visitor for almost sixty years to Upton Park, and now the London Stadium, I continually have a wry smile to myself when I read our fans comments on social media bemoaning our performances, with comments such as “worst ever”, and “it’s never been this bad.” I have to say that, believe me, it has. The thing about supporting our team is the sheer inconsistency. If Forrest Gump’s mother had been a fan then I’m sure she would have said that West Ham are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. When we go to watch them play, we never know what will happen from one season to the next. We never know how we will perform from one game to the next. And what is more, we never know if our second half performance will bear any relation to what we have seen in the first forty-five minutes.

So, for example, compare our first season under Bilic, when we were impressive for much of the time, eventually finishing seventh, but if some dubious refereeing decisions had gone our way, it could have been much higher; to last season, when we started badly, flirted with relegation, before finally finishing eleventh, just a point off eighth place.

For a “one match to the next” example of inconsistency, look back to the end of last season, and that Friday night at the London Stadium just four months ago when we hammered our disliked North London rivals with probably our best performance of the season, before collapsing at home to Liverpool (4-0) just a week later. We then travelled up to Burnley, who had one of the best records at home in the Premier League, and beat them 2-1 to round off the season.

For an example of “one half to the next”, you can look back to Middlesbrough last season when an abject first half performance was followed by a dominating second-half one. You can even see massive inconsistency in a shorter time frame than that. In the first 30 minutes at home to Watford last season we really turned it on and raced into a two goal lead before collapsing defensively, and losing the game 4-2.

To demonstrate further how topsy-turvy our performances have been for so long now, I’ll take you back to when I first started to visit Upton Park to watch the team as a young boy, and recall my first two seasons as a supporter. My first season was 1958-59, our first back in the top division (Division 1 it was called at the time). We finished sixth in the end, an excellent achievement, although we topped the league in early September following an excellent 3-2 win over Manchester United, but dropped to 14th just before Christmas with a defeat to Manchester City. The City game was the final game in a 6 match winless run, including four consecutive defeats, which we then followed up with five straight wins on the bounce over the Christmas / New Year period.

Home league attendances that season varied from as low as 21,000 who witnessed our 6-0 demolition of Portsmouth the week before Christmas, to over 37,000 for the visits of the champions Wolves (who we beat 2-0) and Arsenal. The average home crowd was a little over 28,000 and our top scorer was my favourite, John Dick, with 29 goals in all competitions. Two notable youngsters made their debuts that season, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. We were dumped out of the FA Cup in Round 3 by a poor Spurs side that finished fifth from bottom. Wolves finished as champions for the second season running, and Forest beat Luton 2-1 in the first FA Cup Final I remember watching.

1959-60 was less successful as we finished in 14th place (just four points above a relegation place), despite topping the league towards the end of November. This was quite a dramatic fall in the second half of the season. I hoped I wouldn’t see that again! It was my first taste of the “coming down with the Christmas decorations” legend that existed for many years, although in truth it is perhaps a myth, and on a number of occasions the second half of the season has been better than the first.

On a cold Saturday afternoon in November 1959 I had watched Johnny Dick score a hat-trick as we beat reigning champions Wolves 3-2 to stay at the top of the league. The following Thursday I had to go into hospital for the removal of my adenoids. I was five years old when I went into St. Mary’s in Paddington. Hospitals were very different in those days – parents couldn’t stay with their children and I was left in this frightening place with just early evening visits from my mum and dad. Some of the nurses were very nice and some were very formidable ladies.

I had been in for three days, my adenoids had been removed, it was Saturday afternoon and I was due to come out the next day. I asked one of the nurses if the TV could be put on so that I could see the football results at five o’clock. I was told no, the TV is only turned on for childrens programmes. However when I burst into tears a kindly nurse took pity on me and switched it on. I was desperate to find out how we had got on. When the classified football results came on the screen I looked down the list of games to find West Ham (we were playing away to Sheffield Wednesday) and was horrified to see that we had lost the game 7-0! I burst into tears again and vaguely remember the kindly nurse who had put the TV on for me being admonished by one of the scary nurses and told to turn it off. This was one of my first examples of the “one game to the next” inconsistency that I’ve witnessed for the past sixty years.

But we were really a leading (despite the inconsistency) team at the time, and following our poor performance in the FA Cup the previous year, I was looking forward to an exciting run this time, and being just a small boy, I was hoping to see us at Wembley in May! We were drawn away to Huddersfield Town, who were one of the top teams in the second division at the time. Two of their star players were Denis Law, who went on to have a top career as a legend in Italy and Manchester, and Ray Wilson, who following a move to Everton in 1964, was England’s left back for a while, including when we won the World Cup in 1966.

A tricky game, but we came away with a 1-1 draw thanks to a John Dick goal. Surely the replay the following Wednesday would be just a formality? But on a snowbound frozen Upton Park pitch, in playing conditions that would not see a game go ahead today, I can recall West Ham players slipping and sliding all over the place, whereas Huddersfield seemed to have footwear that enabled them to breeze through the game on their feet. Huddersfield scored two early goals, and despite our left-winger Malcolm Musgrove pulling a goal back, we were 3-1 down at half-time. By the end of the game we trudged off the pitch having lost 5-1 to a team from the division below us. This was the first time I remember, but by no means the last time, that we exited a cup competition at the hands of a team from a lower division.

West Ham Ten Years Ago Today

Memories of starting the season full of hope in August 2007 following the ‘great escape’.

Ten years ago on this day, Saturday 11 August 2007, we began our Premier League campaign with a home game against Manchester City. Just a few weeks earlier we had completed the “Great Escape” with a final day win at Old Trafford, and now under the continued management of Alan Curbishley we were embarking upon a new season with high hopes. Although Carlos Tevez had gone to Manchester United, we had made what were considered to be impressive signings in the transfer window, with new recruits Scott Parker, Freddie Llungberg, Julien Faubert, Kieron Dyer, and Craig Bellamy, who became our record signing at the time at £7.5 million. Dean Ashton was about to return after a year out with injury, and many believed a much better season would follow.

Tevez played less than 30 games for us and scored just seven goals but to many he was almost a legend. Of course, the controversy surrounding him joining us meant that we had allegedly broken third-party rules, which led to us paying an initial fine of £5.5 million pounds. Then, eighteen months later, just days before an independent FA arbitration panel was due to meet to consider a claim by Sheffield United that Tevez was instrumental in their relegation, we agreed to settle the claim by paying £30 million in instalments to the Blades. The “Tevez affair” had a profound impact upon the club for years.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, the ex-England manager, had taken over at Manchester City. Their owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, had bankrolled a big spending spree, and they had a host of new, mainly foreign, signings who made their debut that day, along with a keeper making his first appearance, Kasper Schmeichel. Two of their new signings scored the goals which beat us that day. In the first half, Elano ran through our half barely challenged, and then slid the ball across goal for Bianchi to slide in and score from about two feet. And just a couple of minutes from the end, Onuoha ran half the length of the field, evading a couple of half-hearted challenges, and laid the ball back for substitute Geovanni to hit a low drive beyond Robert Green from the edge of the area.

It was generally a rather flat performance for the opening game of the season, and although Zamora, Llungberg, Etherington, and finally Ashton had decent efforts and might have scored, City were good value for their win. After scoring the opening goal they sat back, and were relatively comfortable.

Our team that day was: Green, Spector, A. Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney, Boa Morte, Bowyer, Noble, Llungberg, Bellamy, Zamora.

Mullins and Etherington were introduced as substitutes at half time replacing Bowyer and Boa Morte, and then with just under half an hour remaining, Dean Ashton replaced McCartney.

The poor start to the season led to some changes for the next game which was won at Birmingham with a Mark Noble penalty. We went on to pick up ten points from the four games that followed the opening day defeat, and eventually finished the season in tenth place, which was one place below Manchester City and one above Tottenham.

How the make-up of the Premier League can change in ten years! Eleven of the clubs we faced that season will not be seen at top flight grounds this season. Villa, Blackburn, Portsmouth, Wigan, Bolton, Fulham, Reading, Birmingham, Derby, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland are all now in lower leagues. The only eight clubs that we faced in 2007-08 that we will meet this season, just ten years later are the teams who finished as the top seven last season, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Everton, plus newly promoted Newcastle. It would be hard to bet against those same seven clubs occupying the top seven places again this season, albeit perhaps in a slightly different order.

Ten years on, and I believe  that Mark Noble and Kasper Schmeichel are the only two players who played that day who are still plying their trade in the Premier League.

Top Six West Ham Hard-Men

Taking a look back at some of the memorable uncompromising and no-nonsense characters in claret and blue.

There was a time that almost every successful team included an enforcer, a player whose job it was to inject that added element of fear and steel into proceedings.  The hard-man culture reached its peak during the 1970’s and early 1980’s although there were still pockets until recent years, when football became much less of a contact sport.  Now they are finally consigned to the footballing scrapheap alongside muddy pitches and the battering ram centre forward.  Notorious hard-men from over the years have included such names as Dave Mackay, Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter, Billy Bremner, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness, Joe Jordan and Vinnie Jones.

At various stages in West Ham history, there have been managers who would have regarded the more agricultural approach to the beautiful game as a tactic that falls somewhat below that expected at an academy.  However,  that has not prevented a number of notable robust individuals turning out in the claret and blue.  Here I take a look at my top six Hammer’s Hard-men:

5 =    Andy Malcolm and Eddie Bovington

I am cheating a little here by lumping together two players who both fell foul of Ron Greenwood’s reluctance to deploy players with a predominantly destructive or physical element to their game.  Quite possibly, Greenwood’s purist philosophy ultimately restricted the 1960’s West Ham side from achieving as much as they could.

Andy Malcolm was born above a grocer’s shop just around the corner from Upton Park and signed for West Ham in 1948, going on to become the club’s first ever England youth international.  Malcolm made his first team debut in 1953 and developed into a ruthless, tough tackling and tenacious man-marker who was assigned to shadow, shackle and stop opposition star players such Jimmy Greaves, Denis Law and Johnny Haynes; England captain Haynes would later describe Malcolm as ‘a butcher’.    An important part of Ted Fenton’s promotion winning side of 1957/ 58 (which included the likes of John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Allison, John Dick and Vic Keeble) Malcolm’s contribution was recognised when he won the fan;s vote for the first ever Hammer of the Year award.  When Greenwood replaced Fenton in 1961 Malcolm’s abrasive style saw him quickly fall out of favour and he lost his wing-half berth to a young Geoff Hurst.  Malcolm left for Chelsea at the end of 1961, in a swap deal involving Ron Tindall, having played over 320 games.

North Londoner, Eddie Bovington joined the West Ham groundstaff in 1957 and received his first taste of first team football in an end of season encounter at Old Trafford in 1961.  Bovington’s progress at Upton Park was very slow, however, and it was only after the Hammers were thrashed 8-2 at home by Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day, 1963 that he secured a proper run in the side; Bovington for Peters being the only change for the return fixture two days later which saw a 3-1 win for West Ham.  Bovington’s man marking job on Rover’s Bryan Douglas had made a huge difference and he kept his place for the remainder of the season including the run all the way to Wembley for FA Cup success.  The following season again saw Bovington as a regular starter in his man-marker role but in March 1965 he suffered a bad kneecap injury which kept him out for the remainder of the season, including the concluding games of the European Cup Winners Cup campaign.  Bovington never had a great rapport with manager Greenwood and went on to play just two more seasons before hanging up his boots at aged 26 to join his family’s tailoring business.

4       Tomas Repka

Tomas Repka established a new West Ham record transfer fee when he was signed from Fiorentina by Glenn Roeder in September 2001 to embark on a topsy-turvy career at Upton Park.  Sent-off on his debut at Middlesbrough, Repka then put in a man-of-the-match performance in a 3-0 home win against Alan Shearer and Newcastle before being sent-off again the following week in a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn.  Repka spent much of his West Ham career as part of an accident prone central defensive partnership with Christian Dailly or at right back where his performances were typically commited and uncompromising but with a high probability of a rush of blood at any moment.  He was a regular in the side relegated in 2002/03 (one red card at home to Fulham) but stayed around in the second level for two seasons to help steer the Hammers back to the Premier League (one red card at home to Preston).  Repka played a further half a season back in the Premier League before deciding to return to his homeland for family reasons.  By the time of his final game, at home to Fulham, Repka had turned around the widely held liability status of his early Hammers career into one of cult hero.

3       Martin Allen

Martin Allen or ‘Mad Dog’ was one of the players recruited to the club (from QPR) during Lou Macari’s brief spell as manager in the wake of relegation to Division 2 in 1989.  Allen played through an eventful period of West Ham history as the club endured a string of promotions and relegation either side of the transition to the Premier League, Macari’s resignation, the appointment of Bonds to the manager’s seat and his acrimonious replacement by Redknapp.  Allen has described himself as a destructive player and formed an usually, for West Ham, tough tackling midfield partnership with Peter Butler.  It was a period defined by ill-discipline in the West Ham ranks and Allen was never far away from a yellow card or worse.  He was sent off twice in the claret and blue, once for a two footed lunge at home to Derby and once for a foul on Rufus Brevett of QPR.  In a separate incident he was punished by the club, but not by the referee, for a foul on Carlton Palmer just twenty seconds after entering the field as a substitute.  Aside from his tough tackling reputation, Allen notched a respectable thirty five goals during his two hundred games for the Hammers.

2       Billy Bonds

Six feet two, eyes of blue, Billy Bonds was after you for over twenty seasons as a West Ham player.  Originally signed by Ron Greenwood as an energetic, marauding full-back, Bonds was later moved into midfield to play the role of minder for Trevor Brooking and later still to central defence where he formed long term partnerships with Tommy Taylor and Alvin Martin.  Known to be one of the fittest players ever to wear a West Ham shirt, Bonds was the epitome of hard work and commitment and cultivated a swashbuckling, Viking look to accompany it.  He was quoted as saying that he got as much enjoyment from winning a strong tackle as from a great pass or setting up a goal.  Bonds was known to be a tough opponent and as hard as nails but he was not a nasty or niggly player like some of football’s better known hard-men.    Bonds was sent off just twice in his lengthy Hammer’s career; once for spitting in a League Cup tie away at Hull and once for an all-in fight with Colin Todd of Birmingham.  Following the latter expulsion he was fortunate not to miss the 1980 FA Cup Final but escaped with a one match ban.  Bonds holds the all-time appearance record for West Ham, weighed in with over sixty goals and was even leading scorer in 1973/74.

1        Julian Dicks

The Terminator, Julian Dicks was a four times Hammer of the Year winner from his two spells with the club between 1988 and 1999.  Despite having a sweet left foot and a thunderous shot Dicks is best known in the football world for his poor on-field discipline and his shaven head (which anecdotally prevented him receiving an England call-up).  Dicks was sent off five times as a West Ham player, three of which came in the single 1992/93 promotion season and led to him being stripped of the club captaincy.  He first saw red in the infamous League Cup battle of 1989 against Wimbledon; a match which saw regular scuffles, a series of robust challenges and, at one stage, a seventeen man brawl.  Dicks was finally sent packing for a scything tackle on Dennis Wise.  Offences in the 1992/93 season comprised an elbow in the face of Newcastle’s Franz Carr, a run-in with Steve Bull of Wolves and a pair of reckless challenges on Ted McMinn of Derby.  His final red resulted from two yellows in a game at Highbury in 1995; this was a game played just five days after the alleged but disputed ‘stamp’ on the head of Chelsea’s John Spencer leading to a long running dispute with Sky’s Andy Gray.  Dicks played over three hundred games for the Hammers and contributed sixty five goals.

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.