Filed: Tuesday, 22nd April 2014
By: Paul Walker
Itís becoming something of a clichť now - the West Ham way - as if it doesnít, or didnĎt exist. As if it is some dream from our past.
We have had big Sam being patronising and claiming heís asked around, and nobody knows what it is. Now we have Alan Shearer slagging us off. And the search and the polls continue. Just what is the West Ham way?
Well, I have tried to keep out of all this nonsense, as if we have set ourselves up as something special, something that others cannot and have not been.
Ok, so I can keep quite for only so long. Those of us, admittedly a dwindling band of 50-somethings who were around at the time it all started to evolve, know the score. And itís not rocket science.
Itís the sort of passing , attacking football that Southampton use. Itís the way Arsenal play (when they feel like it). Itís how Liverpool at their best in the '60s and '80s played. Even Spurs managed it.
The key is defending well, attacking well and producing pace, understanding and passing that opens up opponents. Like Liverpool are using and are about to win the Premier League.
We didnít invent it. Ron Greenwood didnít conjure it up out of thin air like Moses returning from the mountains with tablets of stone. Hungary played that way in the '50s. They inspired the great Wolves teams, Spurs double winners, Chelseaís great attacking sides with Peter Osgood and Charlie Cooke.
The key is to pass the ball to a colleague on the ground, to attack and to entertain. I will pause there for a second so big Sam can catch-up.
We were saddled with the ĎWest Ham wayí tag way back in Ted Fentonís day when journalists came up with the name to describe the way we were introducing European-style tactics and a general approach that involved an Academy-based production line of young talent.
Greenwood continued the inventive theme and John Lyall took it a stage further, trying to add some steel while not losing the flair. It sometimes worked. It worked also under Harry Redknapp, but not as effectively.
Now we have a manager who cannot even spell the word flair. Who has no interest in entertainment, just an industrial approach to acquiring points by not conceding goals. He is a deliberate anti-Christ to what West Ham fans want.
But if you go back to the '60s when I started watching West Ham on a weekly basis, the style and flair of the Bobby Moore side was the closest to what we are now all craving for. It had itís drawbacks, I used to beg to see a Hammers side who could attack, but also defend with the spitefulness of Leeds and the power and resolve of Liverpool.
If Sam wants to have an idea of what we are talking about, I suggest he takes a look back and find some archive stuff around the seasons between 62-63 and 66-67. Thatís the best years of our clubís life, and the football has left a indelible mark on my brain ever since.
I give you Johnny Byrne and Geoff Hurst. Eat your hearts out Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll. Budgie and Hurst were the best double act I have ever seen. West Hamís best-ever striking partnership.
They were the ones who benefited from an attacking philosophy. In the five seasons I have mentioned, between them they scored 227 goals. I will again pause for big Sam to catch up and wonder just what Nolan and Carroll are doing wrong.
Hurst twice topped 40 goals in all competitions for a season. Byrne, a deep-lying forward we would not call, playing in the hole, once managed 33 goals from that role, likened by Greenwood to an English version of Alfredo Di Stefano. Now, what you do now Sam is Google that name so you have some idea what I am talking about.
Johnny 'Budgie' Byrne (seen here in his Crystal Palace kit shortly before his move to West Ham) is still the only player from the fourth division to have represented England
Byrne scored 86 goal in those five seasons for West Ham and Hurst - no shrinking violet who could mix it with the thugs in the game around that time - scored 141 goals in that same spell. Yes, I mean you Norman Hunter, Ron Harris and Tommy Smith.
Big Sam is now going to trot out all the stuff about the game being different now, played by super-fit athletes who have to play his way to survive in the top flight, because survival is all that matters in this cash-crazy football world. And yes, I do understand the need to stay in the to flight, relegation now is a financial disaster that has no comparison in the days of the 60s.
But it doesnít mean you donít try. Swansea have tried this style and they have been in danger of going down, which no doubt Sam would use as ammunition for his argument.
But what I want now is not to hear my son and his mates, who work hard during the week and want some excitement, entertainment and enjoyment from their football, saying how little they are enjoying what they are watching.
That sort of attitude eventually leads to people not renewing their season tickets. I am told that this is the earliest anyone can recall season tickets being on sale for next season. As if they are desperate for the money or want to test the water to see what the uptake is.
If people do stop renewing their season tickets, our owners will have a problem. And that problem is an inflexible Sam. I am not looking for the moon, I just want to see something I enjoy watching, something that stirs the spirit.
In the research into the '60s that provides the core of this piece, I happened upon a spell of matches in the 66-67 season that sums it up perfectly. And I saw most of these matches.
In a couple of months, November and December of that season, West Ham scored 32 goals in nine league games, including an amazing 5-5 draw at Chelsea (yes, we were leading 5-3 with ten minutes left, some things never change).
There was also a run of four matches in eight days that saw us beat Fulham 6-1, Spurs - away - 4-3, Leeds in the League Cup 7-0 and Newcastle 3-0.
The Leeds game was the pinnacle, one of the best games I ever saw. John Sissons scored a hat-trick in the first half hour and Hurst got a treble later. I can still recall Billy Bremner in front of the Chicken Run with a couple of minutes left, still screaming and berating his colleagues to get a grip.
Good for him, I thought, this really is hurting. Don Revie is supposed to have told his team that such a result against us would never happen again. I recall them kicking us to bits every time we played them after that.
And no, I am not expecting our players to run up such goal tallies. But I want them to try, to look positive and interested and to show they care.
That team of the mid-'60s had its faults, bad ones, but that five-season spell saw only one relegation fight and we always finished mid-table. So it can be done. Pass the DVD, Sam. You know it makes sense.
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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