Filed: Friday, 2nd May 2014
By: Paul Walker
The boys of ‘64 were my team. Ever football fan has one, the players that first made them fall in love with their club, the team they idolised and whose pictures covered their bedroom wall.
I was supremely lucky to have Sir Bobby’s team as my lifetime heroes. The team whose names you can recite from memory, and in team formation, to this day.
I didn’t really realise how lucky I was back then. This was the group of players who gave West Ham their golden era, the very best to wear the claret and blue.
Jim Standen, John Bond, Jack Burkett, Eddie Bovington, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, John Sissons. The ‘64 Cup Final winners, those names still make me misty eyed even now, 50 years after the event, our first-ever major trophy.
Yes, Sam, they did pass and lose. But they also passed and won, the FA Cup, the European Cup Winners Cup, the Charity Shield , oh,and they were also Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finalists as holders and League Cup runners-up as well. All in a three season spell., plus, of course, then winning the World Cup.
We have seen nothing as good since, and I doubt we ever will. Just what have you won as a player and manager Sam, with your boring, mind-numbing style? A couple of promotions, a couple of play-offs..and no, I don’t count Limerick!
If you add Joe Kirkup, Brian Dear, Martin Peters and Alan Sealey to the above list, you had the cream of West Ham’s past. It makes me laugh when I am told Paolo Di Canio is our greatest player. Are you sure, he wasn’t even good enough to clear Budgie Byrne’s boots.
Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire , Phil Parkes and Billy Bonds would have got into this squad; few others would have had a chance.
This was the team that I followed as a kid, when my dear old mum finally relented and let me travel the District Line on my own to matches. I was coming from Hayes, Middlesex at the time, and it was a 207 bus ride to Ealing Broadway and then the 30 undergound stops that followed.
I was at the wrong end of the District Line for good reasons. Twice during the war Mr Hitler sent over planes to bomb my dad’s house in Clarendon Road, East Ham. Once while he was in it! Then Hitler sent a fighter plane to strafe East Ham high street as he was turning for home after he finished shadowing Luftwaffe bomber command attacking the Docks, my old man had to dive into a shop doorway.
Hitler clearly had no respect for my health either, and I wasn’t even born yet. So dad moved to West London to get away from the Blitz, met my mum and the rest, as they say, is history.
But dad gave me a deep sense of belonging to East London, and the Hammers were his team. His dad had been at Wembley in ’23 and ,so the story goes, had watched Thames Ironworks. I knew all about Len Goulden, Vic Watson and Stan Foxall. But they went down in ‘32, the first season my dad went to the Boleyn.
It was a long time in the Second Division before promotion eventually in ’58, and I was just nine. I can remember the day we clinched promotion away at Middlesbrough. I was at a school friend’s birthday party and dad was overjoyed when he came to pick me up. Dad had a bit of a stutter (not surprising with all that bombing) and could barely get the 3-1 scoreline out of his mouth.
Ted Fenton’s team was my first, but when I eventually reached teenage years, our 60s heroes took over my every waking hour.
Mooro was the ultimate hero, Budgie not far behind, but the young lad who really inspired me was John Sissons, not everyone‘s choice, I know. But I went to school with John, even if it would be stretching a point to say he was a school friend.
Sissons was the school hero at Mellow Lane in Hayes. The golden boy with the golden hair who was king of the playground. Me, I was just 12 when John played for England Schools and then announced he was joining my club, West Ham. I must have driven him mad, this grubby kid in short trousers who trailed around school in his wake telling him about the Hammers.
John had his own entourage, a host of giggling girls in his shadow every break-time. One was Janice Geraghty, and they eventually married around the time of the ’64 final. They are divorced now and John has been living and working in South Africa since the late 70s with his new family.
But the day John and Janice married in Hayes, the whole West Ham team were guests, Moore, Peters, Hurst, the lot. I was messing around with a camera at the time trying to be a journalist for the school mag, and acquired some pictures of the occasion that I still have.
John had been everyone’s hero. Virtually the whole school went to Wembley to see him play for England Schools, and our team reached the London schools final, John winning games on his own.
In ‘63 many of us were back at Wembley to see Sissons help England Youth to success in the ‘little’ World Cup, he scored five times in the tournament, including in the final victory over Northern Ireland. Then came the big time and the ’64,’65’ and ’66’ seasons with the Hammers.
Several members of the Boys of '64 - including Bobby Moore, far left - at Johnny Sissons' wedding in this never-before-seen photo
That amazing day in ’64 capped it all. My dad got my ticket from a mate who knew Bob Lord and had sent some spares south. Dad actually gave me his ticket, because he couldn’t get two!
Of I went to Wembley. Clutching a cardboard home-made badge on a stick..only to find myself in the away end. Those days it didn’t matter.
We had all been to Hillsborough for the semi-final, got wet through and stood shoulder to shoulder with Manchester United fans on that giant open terrace in Sheffield. Sissons had scored a great goal in a cracking quarter-final against Burnley when Byrne had been a sensation, scoring two brilliant goals.
We had cruised past Charlton--Sissons also scored in that 3-0 win--and taken took two games to beat a half-decent Orient side, a win at Swindon followed ahead of the Burnley cracker. Hillsborough was next. I had one of those giant, heavy metal rattles that would be a dangerous weapon these days!
We’d had to drive to the Boleyn from West London to queue for hours one Sunday morning for the semi-final tickets, and despite going to all the games and collecting the vouchers for Cup Final tickets, my numbers were not pulled out of the hat. Hence the desperate, last minute rush to Slough and back for a ticket on the morning of the final.
Sissons scored in the final, too, and to be fair we struggled to contain a very good Preston side that had teenage Howard Kendall in their side. But Geoff Hurst’s equaliser and Ronnie Boyce’s headed winner were both into my end, where I was the only kid yelling and shouting!
It’s a day that is engrained on my mind ever since, that day and the few years that followed shaped my football beliefs and love affair with the Hammers.
The following day we were up at the crack of dawn to drive to see the team with the Cup from a vantage point on the Barking Road, and then me and dad sneaked into the Chicken Run when the team had reached the ground, and the players brought out the Cup to show the few fans who had got inside the ground.
Another great day. I returned to school and chattered about what my team and our former pupil had done, to the extent that I was sent to the headmaster and caned for talking too much in class. It could be said that West Ham have caused me pain ever since!
Watch the entire 1964 FA Cup Final
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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