Filed: Wednesday, 2nd April 2014
By: Paul Walker
The fear is growing that West Ham are going to allow one of the most significant dates in our history to drift awy with barely a passing glance.
In a week when our beloved manager has once again belittled our heritage by repeating his view on the ‘West Ham way’, his attitude seems to still be rubbing off on the powers that be at the club.
Tony McDonald, editor of the excellent Ex magazine, has again raised the issue of the 50th anniversary of our first major trophy success, the 1964 FA Cup final victory over Preston at Wembley.
Now not for one second would I agree with Tony’s view that relegation would be a good thing just to get rid of Sam Allardyce, |I accept he has a perfect right to express that view even if for the life of me I cannot see any benefit by such a situation--financial disaster to our club is surely not an outcome to be justified on the alter of big Sam’s departure.
But Tony has been a wonderful custodian of the legacy and heritage of our club, a true labour of love to keep alive the memories of the brilliant players who have worn the claret and blue down the years. I enjoy every word of his fine publication.
So if he believes that West Ham are not going to mark the 50th anniversary of our ‘64 Cup triumph, then I am worried too.
A few months ago I challenged our club not to ignore three historic 50th dates over the next few years. First on May 2 this season, the win over Preston. Then on May 19 next year when the European Cup Winners’ Cup glory reaches it’s 50th anniversary. Then, a year later, when we won the World Cup.
All three of those dates can be incorporated into the build-up to our move to the Olympic stadium with just a little thought from our club.
The first of those anniversaries is near, but the silence from inside the Boleyn is deafening. Now they may be thinking of a page in the programme, but if they were going to mark the occasion, surely they would have trumpeted it by now?
I put my fears recently to a good friend and former journalist colleague who has been around our club for too many years to remember, dating right back to Ron Greenwood. I asked him if he had heard anything about a tribute next month, and the answer was sadly not.
Now there have been a few things I have wanted to write about in the past few days on the back of the ’booing’ issue and then the quite remarkable successive wins over Hull and Sunderland that have all but saved us from relegation.
But I believe the failure of our club to announce, or even organise, something special to mark the ’64 triumph, is as important.
We are quick enough to use the legacy of the past to promote the club when our leaders want. The Moore than a club theme is just one, even if I still flinch a bit at such cheesy stuff. I believe it was Alan Pardew who first came up with the idea, and even that is based on Barcelona’s More than a club motto--but them they are representing a whole nation in Catalonia.
The May 2 date is the day before the scheduled last home game of the season against Spurs, although we are all waiting to see if that match is shifted for TV..every chance I fear.
But regardless, what better date to champion our own heritage with our ‘friends’ from White Hart Lane in the ground? There are eight members of that ‘64 side still alive. Only Bobby Moore, John Bond and the incomparable Johnny Byrne have passed on.
It surely is not too difficult to rustle a few of the local ones up for a presentation on the pitch before the game. Eddie Bovington, Ken Brown, Jack Burkett, Peter Brabrook, Ronnie Boyce and Geoff Hurst are still living nearby. If we let this date pass without due respect it will sum up exactly what I think of the people running our club.
Pioneers: Bobby Moore & Co celebrate our first FA Cup success 50 years ago next month
It reminds me of something read recently by Nigel Kahn, a member of the Supporters’ Advisory Board. He has been charged with coming up with ways to mark the final matches at the Boleyn ahead of the move to Stratford.
And he was talking about the difficulty of getting much sense and feeling out of current employees at the club. He said that he was dealing with many people in charge who had not been West Ham fans until they came to work for the club.
They may have the best intentions, but they lack that true love for the place, the supporters and history of the club. I wonder whether that same attitude prevents them understanding what the memory of ‘64 really means to certainly older fans.
That team started the elite era that produced European triumph, World Cup glory and two more FA Cup wins. It is the era that the club sometimes use for their own ends to promote what -ever PR initiative they are currently planning.
You can’t have it both ways. Respect our history at all times and the players that made it possible. It is not too much to expect, surely?
Kahn wanted ideas to mark matches during our final season at the Boleyn. Well, there are seven players who figured in both the ‘64 final and the ‘65 ECWC success 12 months later. Jim Standen, Jack Burkett, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Ronnie Boyce, Geoff Hurst and John Sissons. By definition of achievement, they are the greatest players in our history.
We could mark a match in that final season with their name..the Bobby Moore match, etc. In all there are 15 players who figures in one or other of those finals. You can add John Bond, Joe Kirkup, Eddie Bovington, Martin Peters, Peter Brabrook, Alan Sealey, Johnny Byrne and Brian Dear to the list above. They could also have a game in their memory.
Add to that our trophy winning managers, Ron Greenwood, John Lyall, Ted Fenton and Billy Bonds (both for second division titles), plus Alan Pardew and…yes…big Sam, for play-off triumphs, and you have 21 names… Moore than enough for every game played at the ground in that season.
Sam gets a mention because he deserves it, regardless of your views on the booing and the style of play. Far too much was made of the booing, much by people who were not even there.
I was, and for the Manchester United game, and I subscribe to the view that the real discontent was at the poor level of performance of the players…two really dreadful displays of poor passing, lost possession and general incompetence. Sam became the focal point only really at the end.
You may not agree with me, but I am entitled to that view. What is not in doubt is that, by hook or by crook (no that is not a reference to Steve Kean) Sam has hauled us away from the relegation zone with a remarkable 22 points from 12 games….all starting for me with the ten-man victory at Cardiff.
Seven wins and a draw since then has meant we all can sleep easier now. I must admit the feeling of relief the day after the Sunderland victory was very sweet. We had achieved back-to-back wins against relegation rivals ahead of the tough double header against Liverpool and Arsenal. I am actually looking forward to the Liverpool game now, they are a dream to watch these days.
If we had gone into the next two games needing points, a bag full of points, the tension would have been unbearable. I agree with Andy Carroll, we are now safe. I cannot see the bottom three now pulling off the amount of wins needed to get to us. It just won’t happen.
Everybody could have handled the booing stuff better, Sam should have just ignored it. Too many people with agendas--yes I do mean Patrick Collins of the Mail on Sunday--got in on the act. But Sam and the team got on with their jobs.
Reality says the way they did it is these days a fact of life in a very different football environment than our heroes of ‘64 had. There is so much money involved, and players and managers have careers and their futures to consider.
If you do not have the money and the best players, you have to find a different way to win matches and stay in the top flight. Sam could be a little more adaptable, but that win at Sunderland was probably worth upwards of £60m in future revenue to the club. And that has been his only brief.
Keep us up, and he has done it two seasons on the trot following promotion.
Say what you like, that is a great achievement, and for that Sam and our much-maligned players deserve our gratitude. I have no wish to follow QPR down into the Championship. Even now, with all their money, they are far from certain of promotion.
We may see them next season, we may not. But I know where I would rather be at the moment.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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