The rollercoaster ride of following West Ham

A brief summary of more than sixty years of being a West Ham fan

I read an article recently that was written by a West Ham fan who likened following the team to a rollercoaster ride. I could see where he was coming from with the ups and downs from season to season, and even from game to game. I suppose a lot of football supporters feel this way about their team, but at West Ham I’m sure we experience it more than most.

As a fan I came in when we were fairly high on the ride. The first season I remember (as a five- year-old) was 1958-59. We had been promoted the previous year from Division Two into the top flight (Division One in those days) and in our first season finished in sixth position, and were holding third place before losing our final game. The following season we began a slow descent. A magnificent run through September to November where we won 11 out of 13 games in all competitions (losing just one) meant that we topped the league on 21 November. The following Saturday (I remember it so well because I was in hospital) we travelled to Hillsborough and were soundly beaten 7-0 by Sheffield Wednesday. We began to go down at that point, were bundled out of the FA Cup in the third round 1-5 at home by second division Huddersfield, and finished the season in 14th.

The 1960s were good in that we remained in the top division throughout, hovering between lower top half and bottom half, with the highs of the FA Cup trophy in 1964, followed by the European Cup Winners Cup a year later. The rest of the sixties and early seventies saw more of the same with another peak in the middle of the latter decade with our second FA Cup followed by an excellent run to another European final, playing some great football on the way through the competition.

Following that we began to hover just above the relegation places and eventually went down in 1978. A win in the final game at home to Liverpool would have kept us up but the Merseysiders cruised to a 2-0 win and our 20 year stay in the top flight was over. But all our best players remained and we began to go upwards again. It took us three years to get promoted, but we had a wonderful run in that time, winning the FA Cup for the third time in 1980, and then breaking all records the following season winning promotion as champions with a record points haul, and reaching the League Cup final where we unluckily lost to Liverpool after a replay.

Top half finishes throughout most of the early 1980s culminated in our best league season ever (1985-86), finishing third after being in contention to be champions for most of the season, despite a poor start where we only won one of our first seven matches. Liverpool finished top that year and we were pipped for the runners-up spot after losing at Everton on the final day.

A sharper decline followed that great year however, and three seasons later we were once again relegated. We came back at the second attempt, only to be relegated the following season and then promoted once again in the next campaign. This was a real yo-yo period but we stayed in Division One throughout the nineties and managed a fifth place finish in 1999. We partied with Prince after the final game of the season (a 4-0 win over Middlesbrough) as we qualified for the Inter Toto cup which meant a July start to the following campaign. Success in that early season tournament gave us entry into the UEFA Cup where we were eliminated in the second round, but still finished in the top half in the last year of the twentieth century.

The roller coaster was back in the early noughties with a lower half followed by a seventh place followed by relegation under Glenn Roeder. But we were back in the Premier League once again a couple of years later and reached the FA Cup Final in our first season. The final against Liverpool at the Millenium Stadium was one of the great finals, but Gerrard’s 30 yard shot in injury time denied us victory, and of course we lost the penalty shoot-out.

Top half finishes throughout most of the rest of the decade came to an end with a 17th place finish under Zola in 2010 followed by another relegation a season later under Avram Grant. This time we bounced back at the first attempt under Big Sam and have remained there since, with an excellent final season at the Boleyn in 2015-16, followed by a leaner period since.

So we have come full circle with the high of six wins in a row to begin 2021 followed by a reality check from Liverpool on Sunday. Looking back it is interesting how often Liverpool have featured in this brief summary of more than 60 years of following the ups and downs of West Ham.

Has it been a rollercoaster ride? In one respect the analogy is a false one because the greatest thrill that you get when riding the rollercoaster is not when you are ascending, but more in the rapid plunge to the low point after reaching the top. As a football fan, the best times are the ride to reach the peak, not the fall that has inevitably followed. Nevertheless it has been a great ride that, despite some of the many frustrations in being a West Ham fan, I wouldn’t have swapped for growing up following any other team.

In a match with a history of goals, can West Ham maintain their excellent record against Fulham?

A trip down memory lane as we preview Fulham’s visit to take on the Hammers at the London Stadium

Saturday 3rd February 1968. 52 years ago. It was two days before my fourteenth birthday. A morning game playing for the school under 14s was followed by a trip to Upton Park in the afternoon. We took the District Line train from Barking to Upton Park shortly after noon, bought our programme (6d – 2.5p), and our hot dogs (1 shilling – 5p) outside, before heading into the ground when the gates opened to take up our places on the “big step” about halfway back slightly to the left of the goal in the North Bank. A group of us congregated there for the home games. I can’t remember for sure how much it cost to get in. I think it was 2 shillings (10p) for Juniors, but it might have been double that?

We were expecting to win the game against Fulham who were bottom of the league and looked like they would be going down. To be fair, we weren’t world beaters at the time ourselves and sat in sixteenth place. We had been 20th in November, and 19th at Christmas, but a run of five wins in six games had seen us climb the table and begin to alleviate any fears of relegation.

The West Ham team that day was full of many players who were, or would become club legends. In goal we had Bobby Ferguson who had joined us at the beginning of the season for a world record fee (for a goalkeeper) of £65,000. He was never quite the keeper that we expected, a great shot stopper but not so great at crosses. However, he went on to appear 277 times for the club over a number of years.

The full backs were two youngsters. Billy Bonds who had signed in the close season for £50,000 from Charlton, a transfer which would turn out to be probably our best ever, and a young Frank Lampard who had made his debut the previous November. They would go on to become West Ham legends and the two players who made the most appearances in a claret and blue shirt, 799 and 670 respectively. The centre backs in our 4-3-3 formation were England World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore who was of course our most famous player of all time, and who made the third most appearances in our shirt (647), and John Cushley, a centre half signed that season from Scotland who never really made it with us.

The three summer signings, Ferguson, Cushley & Bonds were made to strengthen the defence following a season (1966-67) where we had conceded 84 goals. We had scored 80, so it was obvious that we made the purchases to strengthen the weakest part of the team (current administration take note!). That season had ended poorly, and was one of the examples often quoted of West Ham coming down with the lights after Christmas. On December 27th we sat in 7th place in the table, but only won four games in the remainder of the campaign (including three in a five day spell over Easter). We were still 10th with just eight games remaining, but just one point in those final fixtures, three goals scored, and 19 conceded, led to a finishing position of 16th (out of 22 in those days).

Back to the Fulham game that day, and in midfield we had three club legends, Sir Trevor (4th most appearances for the club), Martin Peters, another England World Cup winner, and Ronnie Boyce who had scored the winning goal for us in the 1964 Cup Final. They played 643, 364, and 341 times for us.

Up front another legend and scorer of the hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final, Geoff Hurst, who scored 249 goals in his 503 appearances for the club, Brian Dear, who was bang in form and had scored 9 goals in the 7 games before the Fulham game, and a tricky left winger John Sissons who turned out on 213 occasions for us.

What a team that was, and yet we were struggling to make an impact in the top flight, rarely finishing in the top half of the table. It was hard to believe that we lost more games than we won with those players in 1967-68. In our 42 games that season we won 14, drew 10, and lost 18. In fact we lost 8 of our home games, a number only beaten by the two clubs who were relegated that season, Fulham and Sheffield United. We scored 73 goals and conceded 69, so a positive goal difference which was helped by the game that day against Fulham. At least the season was a bit of an improvement on the one before and we eventually finished 12th, with a better finish this time, only losing two of our final 11 games.

We won the match 7-2, with goals from Brooking (2), Hurst (2), Moore, Dear and Peters. The 11 players who played that day went on to play a total of 4,564 games for the club, and scored 660 goals for us between them. The world has changed in more ways than one, and football has changed too. I wonder if we look back in years to come at the 11 players who will start the game against Fulham this time around, and total up their appearances and goals. Of course it won’t come anywhere close to those legends I watched as a young teenager. I wonder how many of today’s team will be remembered as legends of the club?

The current restrictions mean that I am unable to be at the London Stadium for this game but I’ll be paying my £14.95 and tuning in to the TV to see if we can manage another 7-2 victory. We go into this game in 14th place, while Fulham sit just above the relegation places in 17th. Our position does not really reflect our fine performances in a number of games in this season so far, it is more a reflection of the strength of the opposition we have faced in our opening 7 games. All 7 teams we have played are in the top 11 of the league at this early stage of the campaign, including the top three. I think it would be fair to say that the majority of our supporters have been generally pleased with our start, and would have bitten off your hand for 8 points from the opening seven games.

We now have the opportunity to put more points on the board in the next 12 games against lesser opposition (on paper) that will take us up to the halfway point of the season on 16th January, later than usual this time. But to do this we will need to maintain the form that we have shown so far, and find a different way to play in the absence of Antonio, whose form was a key factor in the opening six games – he was missed in last week’s game at Liverpool. An interesting statistic that I saw was that we have only won one of our last 12 Premier League games when Antonio has not been in the side. That emphasises the proof of his importance to the team, and the need to find a system that suits when he is not there.

I have no doubt that Haller will be given another opportunity to replace him in the starting eleven, but he really needs a player alongside to bring out the best in him. That would go against the system that has been successful this season so far, so it will be interesting to see if David Moyes and the coaching staff have come up with a suitable plan. Perhaps one to consider for this game against Fulham who seem to be a “keep possession side” would be to play without a recognised centre forward and flood the midfield, in a 4-6-0 formation? Whatever is decided I hope we see more of Said Benrahma than the two minutes he was given at Anfield.

In a season of more goals than usual, it is hard to imagine that the game can possibly end up goalless, especially as we have only kept two clean sheets in the 13 Premier League home games in David Moyes’ second time in charge, and Fulham haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last 15 Premier League fixtures against us. It would be great to see a repeat of the 7-2 that I remember so fondly from my teenage years. But games don’t end 7-2 these days do they? Oh, hold on a minute, what was the score in the Aston Villa v Liverpool game just a few short weeks ago?

In the season before our 7-2 win we beat Fulham 6-1 with our World Cup winning goalscorers netting all the goals (Hurst 4, Peters 2). I was at Upton Park that day too before going home for fireworks in the evening to follow the fireworks in the afternoon. The date was 5th November 1966. 6-1 would be a great score too.

On the exact anniversary of today’s game – two days later on 7th November 1966 – 54 years ago today – we had an evening game at home in the fourth round of the League Cup when we faced the mighty (at the time) Leeds United. We did even better than we did against Fulham, beating Leeds (with all their first team playing – players weren’t rested for the Cup games in those days) 7-0, with hat-tricks from Hurst and Sissons and a goal from Peters.

So what do I fancy today, the first game in the second lockdown, and the last game before the second international break? 7-2? 6-1? 7-0? So many times in the past we have failed to beat “lesser” teams that we would expect to beat. I’d just like to see an entertaining game, a good strong performance, a comfortable victory and the three points that would enable us to start to climb the table. What are the chances?

Memories of West Ham games against Liverpool in the last 55 years

A collection of memories from an encounter that has never been the most productive for West Ham over the years.

Our head to head record against Liverpool is an appalling one. In 135 competitive games in the league, cups, and charity shield, we have won just 28, drawn 36, and lost 71. I guess that this is not too surprising given Liverpool’s record as one of the top teams in the country over a long period of time.

Our final season at the Boleyn (2015-16) was as good as it gets against them with three victories and a draw in the four games. We won comfortably (3-0) at Anfield at the end of August, after which the manager (Brendan Rodgers) lost his job to be replaced by Jurgen Klopp. We also won the return league fixture at Upton Park, as well as drawing at Anfield in the FA Cup, then beating them after extra-time in the replay.

In 2014-15 there was an amazing start to the game at Upton Park. First, Reid scored from close range after a couple of minutes, and then Sakho floated in the second with Valencia following it in to make sure. Just a few minutes gone and we were 2-0 up. On the half hour Sterling lashed in a fierce shot in front of the Bobby Moore end to reduce our lead. However we held the advantage throughout the second half, and just a couple of minutes from the end a pass from Downing enabled Amaltifano to make the game safe with a clinical finish.

In the ill-fated relegation season under Avram Grant (2010-11) an inspired performance from Scott Parker (not his only inspired performance in a claret and blue shirt) was the catalyst for another victory. Parker himself opened the scoring with a fine shot, and then Demba Ba headed home Gary O’Neill’s cross. Yet another old boy then scored against us when Glenn Johnson pulled one back in the last ten minutes. But Carlton Cole wrapped up the three points with a scorching left footed strike in front of the fans in the Bobby Moore stand to seal a 3-1 victory. This was our nineteenth meeting against Liverpool in the twenty-first century, but was only our second win!

We all know the statistic about how long we went without winning at Anfield (1963-2015). But in that cup winning season of 1963-64, not only did we win at Anfield in September 1963 (with the Beatles at the top of the charts with “She Loves You”), but we also won the home game, with a Johnny Byrne goal giving us a 1-0 win. At around the time of that Anfield victory, another Merseyside group, Gerry & the Pacemakers, recorded their single “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It became number one in November and, of course, went on to become a Liverpool anthem.

When we met Liverpool in a League Cup fourth round tie in November 1988, few gave us much chance as we had failed to beat them at home or away for over six years. But a spectacular volley half way through the first half followed by a Devonshire corner headed home meant that we led 2-0 with both goals being scored by everyone’s favourite, Paul Ince. We don’t easily hold on to 2-0 leads against Liverpool and this game was no exception when they were awarded a controversial penalty which was converted by Aldridge. So 2-1 at half-time and the next goal would be important. But the story has a happy ending with a Staunton own goal followed by a stunning Tony Gale free kick giving us a famous 4-1 victory. That season ended on a low note with a 5-1 defeat at Anfield which relegated us to Division 2 and set Liverpool up for a title decider against Arsenal with a distinct advantage. But they lost out to virtually the last kick of the league season when a Michael Thomas goal gave the Gunners a decisive 2-0 victory and the title on the virtue of goals scored in the season with points and goal difference being equal.

The highest profile games against Liverpool were played on neutral grounds. In our record breaking season of 1980-81, the only season in almost sixty years of watching West Ham I have seen us finish at the top of a league, albeit it was Division Two, we reached the League Cup Final against them. At the time they were the top team in the country. It looked like we were about to lose the game when Alan Kennedy scored just before the end of extra time (it was 0-0 after 90 minutes), but in the final minute we were awarded a penalty, and Ray Stewart was the coolest person in Wembley Stadium when he stepped up and slotted home the well-deserved equaliser.

The galling thing about the Liverpool goal was that Sammy Lee was crouching on the ground immediately in front of Phil Parkes, our goalkeeper, in an offside position and the linesman raised his flag to signal offside. He was over-ruled by the infamous referee Clive Thomas (who was not averse to controversial decisions) who deemed that although Lee was in an offside position he was not interfering with play. Anybody who was there, or who has watched the TV replay of the goal would agree that this was nonsensical, he was most definitely interfering with play as he had to duck his head to avoid being hit by the ball!

The League Cup controversy sparked a major incident when John Lyall told Thomas at the end of the game that we felt cheated, and then Thomas blurted to the press that Lyall had called him a cheat. Lyall faced an FA charge of bringing the game into disrepute, although he was exonerated at the hearing. The replay was held at Villa Park. Despite taking the lead when Jimmy Neighbour’s cross was met at the near post by Paul Goddard, Dalglish equalised with a magnificent volley and then Alan Hansen scored a header via Billy Bonds’ thigh. This time we couldn’t come back and Liverpool lifted the trophy.

In 2006 we visited the Millenium Stadium for the third season in a row, although this time no play-offs were involved, we were contesting the FA Cup Final against Liverpool. This was the sixth and last FA Cup Final to be held in Cardiff during the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium. Liverpool had won the first in 2001 but we were determined that they wouldn’t win the last. The game was considered to be one of the great cup finals. We made an excellent start with a Lionel Scaloni cross being turned into his own goal by Carragher, and then an Etherington shot was fumbled by Reina for Ashton to squirm the ball into the goal. We were in dreamland. Our 2-0 lead was shortlived, however, when Scaloni misjudged a long ball from Gerrard which Cissé volleyed home to cut the deficit in half. Ten minutes into the second half Gerrard volleyed home a headed knockdown by Peter Crouch to level the game at 2-2.

Incredibly we went ahead again 25 minutes from the end when Paul Konchesky’s long floated cross-cum shot sailed over the head of Reina to put us 3-2 ahead. With the game in injury time Liverpool were out on their feet and it looked as though the cup was ours. Scaloni could have put the ball out high into the stands, or just kept possession, but chose to hand it to our opponents and seconds later it fell to Gerrard who hit a stinging low shot from around 30 yards into the bottom corner of the net to take the game into extra time. I thought back to this moment when Antonio did something similar in the last seconds of injury time against Palace last weekend! Liverpool had the momentum in extra time but extraordinary misses by Reo-Coker and Harewood meant that it would take a penalty shoot out to decide the victors. It was perhaps one of the most one sided penalty shoot outs of all time in a major final. Zamora, Konchesky and Ferdinand all contrived to miss with substitute Sheringham scoring our only penalty as we lost 3-1. The cup was ours and then we lost it. Twenty-six years after our previous FA cup victory we should have lifted the trophy again, but it was not to be.

Memories of West Ham games against Crystal Palace in the last fifty years

A look back at some of the memorable encounters between West Ham and Palace.

The yo-yo is a toy invented by the Ancient Greeks. It became popular with children in this country around a century ago and you still see them in toy shops today. However the sophistication of modern toys means that children are never usually interested in them for very long. “To yo-yo” became a verb in the English language meaning to go up and down, and it is also used as an adjective too in footballing terms to describe clubs that change divisions regularly. Crystal Palace have yo-yoed from the fourth tier to the top, back down to the third, and then frequently from the second to the top and back again several times, and can definitely be considered a yo-yo club. As a result we’ve missed playing against them as often as we’ve met many other clubs.

Although I had been going to watch West Ham for more than ten years it was a new experience for me to see us play against Crystal Palace at Upton Park in November 1969. I was in the fifth form (now called Year 11) at Barking Abbey School at this time, Sugar Sugar by the Archies topped the “pop charts”(wouldn’t be allowed by the health police today!), and a young guy called David Bowie was in the top ten for the first time with Space Oddity. We beat them 2-1 in that game with goals from Geoff Hurst and Clyde Best.

As a small boy I used to avidly study the league tables of all the English leagues and I remember them being a Division Four team in the early 1960’s. We made a fantastic signing when we bought the great Johnny Byrne from them just as they were promoted to Division Three in 1962. They made good progress as a club and reached the dizzy heights of Division One by the end of the decade.

In October 1970 I went to Selhurst Park with school friends for the first time. By this time we were in the sixth form. We listened to Deep Purple (Black Night) and Black Sabbath (Paranoid) on our ipods on the way to the game. Or at least we might have done if ipods had existed then, but we had to wait another 30 years before we were able to buy them. CD’s were still 15 years or so away from being available to us. My memory of this game is sketchy however, although I remember being surprised by the size of the crowd. Palace often had crowds in excess of 40,000 at the time. I know we took the lead early on with a goal from Bobby Howe who didn’t score many. He scored from close range, and apart from a superb goal when he volleyed home a corner against Chelsea in front of the South Bank a couple of months before I can’t recall any other goals that he scored for us. We had a very attacking line-up that day with Dear, Hurst and Greaves all playing up front. We didn’t score again and Palace equalised. The game ended 1-1. Another memory is the noise made by the Palace crowd. The return fixture that season ended goalless. I can remember nothing about that game whatsoever.

The next season we travelled down to South London to see the away fixture at Palace once again. It never seemed to be an easy place to get to on the trains. We were in the Upper Sixth and Rod Stewart topped the charts with Maggie May. In those days of course there was no internet and we had no idea of the team that would be playing until the players emerged onto the pitch. We were surprised when we saw a young 17 year old Ade Coker making his debut for us, and even more surprised when he volleyed home a superb goal in the first few minutes of the game. We were behind the goal where he scored and crushed in the celebrations. There was a similar attendance for this game as in the previous year and we could barely move in the packed terrace. Shortly afterwards Billy Bonds scored a header and we led 2-0 at half time. We were playing great stuff and totally in control of the game. Clyde Best added a tap-in the second period and we ran out 3-0 winners. Once again we had showed great attacking intent with three forwards (different players from the previous year), Coker, Best and Pop Robson which wasn’t unusual in those days. With Redknapp on the wing and Brooking and Bonds controlling the midfield it was one of the best away performances I can remember. But once again we couldn’t beat them in the return fixture drawing 1-1 at home with a Clyde Best goal.

I’m not really sure why Ade Coker never really progressed with us. He looked terrific in his first game but only played a handful of games in three seasons scoring a couple of goals at Upton Park, one was against Tottenham and the other (his last) in a 5-2 rout of Leicester. He was a real prospect who never made it and he moved to America to play in the North American Soccer league. Although he was born in Nigeria he qualified to play international football for the USA and played five games for them, scoring three times.

The following season we beat Palace twice, and in the home game (once again in October) we thrashed them 4-0. I was working in the City by now and there was a very unusual “record” at number one, one of those novelty records that sometimes topped the charts in those days, Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon. Palace were relegated that season so we didn’t see them again until we were relegated ourselves in 1978 and met them in Division Two, both games ending in 1-1 draws. Grease was the big film at the time, and in between meeting them in August and November, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John dominated the charts with a string of songs from the film.

We finished fifth that season but they finished as Second Division champions. By the time we got back to the top flight in the early eighties they had been relegated again so we didn’t meet them in the league again until the 1990’s. We kept missing each other and our next meeting was in the famous “Bond relegation season” in 1991-92 when we finished bottom of the table. We beat them at Selhurst Park, one of our only three away wins that season, but lost to them in a Monday night game in front of a small Upton Park crowd late in the season when we were already virtually down.

Palace continued to yo-yo and I only remember them visiting once more in the 1990’s in the days of Berkovich and Hartson when they combined superbly to enable us to win easily 4-0. Of course those two players weren’t always that friendly with each other! The next time I remember them was when we had been relegated again in the Glen Roeder era. We beat them easily on a Wednesday night game in the early part of the season when Neil Mellor scored a couple, but lost the return fixture at Selhurst Park late in the season. Their victory that day, together with Brian Deane’s late goal for us against Wigan in the very last minute on the very last day of the season enabled them to sneak into the play-offs at the expense of Wigan. We all know what happened at Cardiff when we met in the play-off final, one of the most disappointing football days of my life, and a day I’d like to forget, although it is difficult to erase the memory completely. I do remember the long car journey home though.

In recent times there have been contrasting fortunes. Palace did a 1-0 double over us in 2013-14, and then in the following season we won 3-1 away and lost by the same score at home. In 2015-16 we won 3-1 away again, before drawing 2-2 in April in one of the final few games at Upton Park. That game is memorable for an astonishing free-kick by a Frenchman who is no longer with us. He scored a few in his time here, but that one is probably my favourite.

Last season we completed the double with a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park, followed by an emphatic 3-0 home victory which included one of the goals of the season, when Andy Carroll demonstrated perfect timing and technique to exercise that superb scissor kick.

Great Wembley Memories as a West Ham Fan

Never to be forgotten West Ham magic moments from that most iconic stadium of them all.

I watched the FA Cup Final on Saturday with my six-year old grandson, a mad keen Arsenal fan like his dad, my son-in-law. The joy on his face when Arsenal took an early lead, the look of despair when Chelsea equalised, and then the sheer jubilation when Ramsey headed the winner shortly afterwards, and the excitement at full time, brought back memories of my own childhood, when the FA Cup Final was a really special event. It still is to some extent, but doesn’t have quite the glamour of yesteryear.

The first FA Cup final that I remember clearly was when I was six (Wolves v Blackburn in 1960), but I had to wait until I was ten to see West Ham there. I watched the game with my dad on our black and white TV. We played Preston, who were then a second division side, and were expected to beat them easily, at least I thought so. But we had to come from behind twice, first when John Sissons at 18 became the youngest player to score in a final, then a Geoff Hurst header which hit the underside of the bar and barely crossed the line (shades of things to come!) made it 2-2, and finally Ronnie Boyce popped up to head home the winner right at the end.

For my next Wembley memory I only had to wait a further year. I was in the crowd of 100,000 high up behind the goal where Alan Sealey scored twice in the second half to enable us to win the European Cup Winners Cup. What a fantastic never to be forgotten night for an 11 year old. It was my first experience of actually being at Wembley, and the noise was unbelievable.

In September of 1965 I was back at Wembley for the second time to see the World Speedway final. Bjorn Knuttsson was captain of West Ham speedway team, another of my passions as a boy, and duly won the title, winning four of his five rides.

Then just a year later it was back to the TV to watch England win the World Cup. Many will say that wasn’t strictly West Ham, but to us fans, we know better. The legendary Bobby Moore was captain, and provided the assists for two of the goals, Martin Peters scored one goal (Geoff Hurst provided the assist), and everybody of course knows that Sir Geoff bagged a hat-trick. Yes of course there were 8 other players doing their bit, but West Ham players scored all four goals and provided three of the assists in the final.

Move on one year and in 1967 the League Cup Final was to be played at Wembley for the first time; previously it was a two-legged affair. I was hopeful for West Ham involvement yet again, but we were knocked out in the semi-final by West Brom.

I had to wait until 1975 for my next West Ham visit to the national football stadium, although by then I had seen several England international games. It was first v second division again; this time we faced Fulham, with the added bonus of seeing Bobby Moore, our old hero nearing the end of his career, lining up against us. The game was an unremarkable one for the neutral, but we won 2-0 with Alan Taylor scoring twice, as he did in the quarter-final and semi-final.

In 1980 we were back again, and this time I had a seat, although I don’t think I used it to sit on. It was first v second division for the third time, but this time we were the lower ranked team, and not expected to beat Arsenal, who were in the final for the third year running. But Trevor Brooking’s famous diving header won the game, and once again my return journey up Wembley Way was a happy one.

In March 1981 we were back yet again, this time to contest the League Cup final. We were still in the second division, but had probably the best second tier side of all time that season, and were runaway winners of the division to get back to the top flight. We faced the mighty Liverpool, and looked like we were going to lose the game when Liverpool scored a very late (blatantly offside) goal. But within a minute we were awarded a penalty and Ray Stewart stepped up to calmly equalise to take the game to a replay (no penalty shoot-outs in those days). We lost the replay 2-1 at Villa Park.

We were involved in two further Play-Off finals and another FA Cup final in the early years of the 21st century, but these were all in Cardiff whilst Wembley Stadium was being redeveloped. We only won one of the three (against Preston in 2005), but should have beaten Liverpool in the classic 2006 FA Cup Final, only to be denied by that late Gerrard strike.

My first visit to the redeveloped Wembley was to see the Play-Off final against Blackpool. It was a tense affair, after Tom Ince had equalised Carlton Cole’s early goal. But Ricardo Vaz Te became an instant hero when he netted the late winner, sparking great scenes behind that goal.

I have great memories of West Ham playing at Wembley. We may not have been there as much as some of the top sides, but as fans we have the enviable record of never seeing our team beaten there in six games. Unless of course you were there in 1923 when we lost the very first Wembley FA Cup final to Bolton! No defeats and some great memories.

My Favourite Games: Number 11 – The Winning FA Cup Final, 1964, West Ham 3 Preston 2.

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs in the charts when these games were played. Today finally winning a major trophy.

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.

Favourite Fame 11In 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.

My Favourite Games: Number 10 – West Ham 7:0 Leeds United, November 7 1966

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs in the charts when these games were played. Today a midweek rout of Don Revie’s Dirty Leeds.

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.

Favourite Games 10

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.

My Favourite Games: Number 9 – West Ham 4:3 Queens Park Rangers, November 2nd 1968.

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played. Number 9 is a seven goal thriller against QPR.

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 an excellent West Ham win, seven goals in the game (a fortnight earlier I had witnessed eight goals put past Sunderland!), some special goals, including one from Bobby Moore and a stunning volley from Harry Redknapp. And growing up in the 1960s I remember fondly the music in the charts at the time.

Favourite Games 9

With a group of friends from school I watched this massively entertaining game from the North Bank.  The game stands out in my memory for another reason, too. The Chicken Run had been demolished at the end of the previous season and the new “East Stand” was being constructed in its place. This game was the first time I remember seeing people standing on the East Stand lower terracing, somewhere we often stood later in the 1970s. The seats in the upper tier were not in place when the lower tier standing was first opened, although they were brought into use shortly afterwards. It was the featured game on the Big Match on the following day, on Sunday afternoon, so we had the opportunity to see the highlights again, which was not often the case in those days, as few games were televised, unlike today when all games can be seen.

QPR opened the scoring with an innocuous looking through ball turned home from a fairly wide angle by Barry Bridges I think. We then witnessed a great goal from Bobby Moore who collected the ball around half-way, strode forward unchallenged, and then unleashed a shot from outside the area into the roof of the net. There were no celebrations like there are today when a goal is scored. He just turned around and walked back towards the half way line, with a handshake or two from teammates. This is the goal often shown in black and white on the screens at home games. We went 2-1 ahead with a Martin Peters header from a flick on, and then added a third when Bobby Moore took a free-kick which was headed in at the near post by Geoff Hurst, a trademark West Ham goal of the late 1960s.

Being 3-1 up at half-time we remembered we were West Ham and let QPR back into the match with two headers levelling the score at 3-3. But there was a moment of magic to come, when a move started by Harry Redknapp was fed out to Geoff Hurst on the left, who then crossed the ball into the area. It was met by Redknapp with a stunning, unstoppable volley which almost burst the net. It was a great move with great technique for the finish.

The influence of the Beatles was a prominent feature of the November 1968 charts. The number one in the first week of the month was Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin. Originally a Russian song, Hopkin’s 1968 recording was produced by Paul McCartney. Ironically the song had toppled Hey Jude by the Beatles from the top of the chart a week previously. In America it reached number 2, and was denied the top spot by Hey Jude. Number 2 was another Beatles song, With A Little Help From My Friends, sung by Joe Cocker. The original Beatles version was on the famous Sgt. Pepper album, and was written by Lennon and McCartney specially for Ringo Starr, which was a feature of some of their LPs, where the Ringo song was deliberately given a limited range to suit his singing voice. The first line of the song had the (ironical?) lyrics “What would you do if I sang out of tune?” The Joe Cocker arrangement was vastly different to the original Beatles recording.

Number 3 was the Hugo Montenegro instrumental The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It was the theme song of the epic Italian Spaghetti Western film of the same name, starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Little Arrows by Leapy Lee was at number 4, and just like the Mary Hopkin and Hugo Montenegro recordings, all three were among the top 10 selling single records of the whole of 1968. Other notable artists in this week’s chart were the Tremeloes, The Hollies, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, and the Dave Clark Five. In the lower reaches of the chart heading upwards were All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, and the future Christmas number one, Lily The Pink by the Scaffold.

My Favourite Games: Number 8 – West Ham 6:1 West Brom, Good Friday, April 16 1965

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played. Today a memorable quickfire scoring feat by Brian Dear.

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. I remember this one especially for seeing a big West Ham win, and a goalscoring feat by Brian Dear, something which I doubt I will ever see again. And growing up in the 1960s I remember fondly the music in the charts at the time.

Favourite Games 8

It was a “Good Friday” for me during the Easter holidays in 1965 as for the first time I was allowed to go to Upton Park with friends rather than any adults being with us. The Last Time by the Stones was in the charts but this was my first time. I was eleven. Do eleven year-olds go to West Ham without adult company these days? It was an even better Friday for Brian Dear as this was the day he scored five goals in a twenty minute spell either side of half time in our 6-1 trouncing of West Brom. I can recall a newspaper headline of the match report that I had in my West Ham scrapbook at the time. It read “Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear!” Martin Peters scored the other goal incidentally, but everyone forgets that. The following week I went on my first trip abroad, a school visit to Paris and Ostend. I remember the time very well.

Dear’s first goal came just a minute before the half-time interval. Of course back in those days the half lasted for just 45 minutes. We didn’t have a board indicating additional minutes to be played for injuries, time-wasting or substitutions. When 45 minutes were up the half-time whistle was blown. If I remember correctly the game kicked off at 11am, so the half would have ended exactly at 11.45. There was only a ten minute interval in those days too.

He scored four more in the first 19 minutes of the second half, the last coming at 12.14pm, making it a five goal haul in twenty minutes of football time (half an hour if you include the interval!), a feat which I don’t believe has been repeated since. It is claimed that Aguero equalled the five goals in 20 minutes when Manchester City beat Newcastle by the identical score 6-1 in October 2015. Aguero’s goals were timed at 42, 49, 50, 60 and 62 minutes, seemingly within twenty minutes, but everyone forgets the additional three minutes that the referee added before blowing the half-time whistle.

I remember the West Brom game very well, not particularly for the quality of our football, which was good of course as we won the game comfortably, but more for the fact that I realised that I was watching a very special goalscoring feat. I did witness another a few years later when I saw Geoff Hurst score six in a game. Of course, as often happened in those days, the return fixture came just a few days later (on Easter Monday to be precise). West Brom turned the tables and beat us 4-2, and no, Brian Dear didn’t score, our goals came from Ronnie Boyce and Geoff Hurst.

Despite his goalscoring prowess, he never had many extended runs in the first team, and played a total of just 82 games in a seven-year spell, scoring 39 goals at a healthy average of almost one every other game. Why didn’t he play more often? He did feature in the final 15 matches of the successful European season, scoring 14 goals, and was a member of our victorious European Cup Winners Cup side just a month later on that famous night at Wembley.

In addition to the The Last Time by the Rolling Stones mentioned earlier, which was a former number one on its way downwards, there were a number of top acts in the chart that week, the Yardbirds were at 2 with For Your Love, Unit 4+2 were at 3 with Concrete and Clay, Donovan was at 4 with Catch The Wind, Here Comes The Night by Them was at 5, Bob Dylan was at 7 with The Times They Are A-Changin’, and the Beatles were a new entry at 10 with Ticket to Ride, which would go on to be the number one the following week. The number one this week was Cliff Richard with The Minute You’re Gone.

My Favourite Games: Number 7 – West Ham 3:2 Burnley, February 29 1964

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played. This week we leap back to an FA Cup game played on 29 February 1964.

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.

Favourite Games 7

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.