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.

The Gaffers: Number 1 – John Lyall

We start an occasional series on West Ham managers with a look back at the great John Lyall on what would have been his 77th birthday.

John Lyall

In the history of English football, West Ham have allowed their managers to remain in charge of the team for longer than any other club on average. Since 1902, when Syd King was manager, through our election into the Football League in 1919, right up until the present day, we have had just 15 permanent managers. A few others, most notably Trevor Brooking, acted as caretaker managers. I have been watching West Ham since 1958 and the boss at the time was Ted Fenton, who was just our third manager in over half a century. John Lyall took over from Ron Greenwood in August 1974, and remained in charge until he was sacked in May 1989, after an association of 34 years with the club.

Lyall began his career at West Ham aged 15 as a groundstaff boy and office clerk, and was a promising full back, playing 34 times for the first team before a serious knee injury ended his career. He won international youth honours playing one game for England Youth, and was a member of the West Ham youth side that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 1957. He then concentrated on coaching and became assistant manager to Greenwood in 1971, becoming team manager three years later when his mentor moved upstairs.

It was a topsy-turvy 15 years in charge with a lot of success (in West Ham terms) with FA Cup wins in 1975 and 1980, the latter being the last time a club from outside the top flight has won the trophy. European Cup Winners Cup losing finalists in 1976 and League Cup finalists in 1981, losing after a replay, were also notable achievements, as was an outstanding promotion season in 1980-81 where the second division title was won by a large margin with 28 wins and only four defeats. His managerial highlight was in 1985-86 where we came so close to winning the league title, eventually finishing third, which was (and still is) our highest ever placing. This was arguably our best ever season, and we certainly played some terrific entertaining football which I enjoyed enormously.

I maintain to this day that the postponed games and subsequent fixture pile up were key factors in us not winning the title that season. In John Lyall’s autobiography Just Like My Dreams he even wrote “West Ham’s last five games spanned just ten days – a demanding schedule and hardly the fairest way to settle a nine month long Championship race.” Perhaps if the club had considered installing undersoil heating like a number of clubs had done by that time, we might look back upon 1985-86 as the season we finished as champions?

The low points were two relegation seasons in 1977-78 and 1988-89, the latter resulting in Lyall’s dismissal which many felt was not handled well by the club considering his 34 years of service and his success in charge. The programme had just a few short sentences as acknowledgement of his long period of time at the club.

He deserves credit, in addition to the trophies and finals for keeping together and attracting high class players, in particular following the first relegation. Has there ever been a better second tier side in English football in history than the one that contained Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Alan Devonshire, Trevor Brooking, Paul Goddard and David Cross in 1980-81?

A year after being sacked he resumed his football management career at Ipswich, and in just his second season in charge led them into the newly-formed Premier League as Second Division champions. After a couple of years at the helm, he moved upstairs, and resigned soon afterwards.

John Lyall died suddenly of a heart attack in April 2006. He would have been 77 on 24th February this year. Less than a week after his death West Ham won through to the FA Cup final, our first since 1980, when he was our manager. The one minute silence at the semi-final just a few days after he died was followed by the continuous chant of “Johnny Lyall’s claret and blue army,” showing the genuine affection of our fans, and the high regard in which he was held. The main gates at Upton Park were renamed the “John Lyall Gates” in 2009, and have been moved to the London Stadium.

John Lyall managed West Ham for 779 games in 15 years. In pure statistical terms he had a win percentage of 40%, the fifth best record, after Bonds 44%, Pardew, Paynter and Fenton (all 41%). But if the club had invested in the team after our best ever season in 1985-86, who knows how much success we might have had?

How can we judge the success of football managers? Win percentages? Lose percentages? Goals scored and conceded? Trophies won? Stronger position financially? Attracting bigger crowds? A higher league position than when he came? A combination of these factors? Also do we need to consider the resources available and division we play in? You cannot really compare different eras but if I had to pick a 1-2-3 on a mixture of the above criteria, then in my opinion Greenwood, Lyall and Bonds would have to be considered the most successful. I’ll let the reader choose the order, or indeed make their own choice of who has been our best manager.

But whoever you pick, John Lyall gave great service to our club, and was considered to be a true gentleman by everyone who met him. He will always be remembered as an innovative coach who continued the tradition of his predecessor, Ron Greenwood, of playing football the “West Ham Way”.