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When we were kings of Europe: a distant memory not forgotten


Filed: Friday, 20th March 2015
By: Paul Walker


It would have been very nice to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our greatest-ever achievement with a return to Europe.

But even if it was anything more than a myth, it’s not going to happen. So first things first, I do hope and pray that our lords and masters are going to put on a fitting tribute to the heroes of 1965, the men who ruled Europe for just a short while when we waltzed away with the European Cup Winners’ Cup in front of over 90,000 Hammers fans at Wembley.

I come from a generation of Irons fans who remember it as if it was yesterday. I was there, with my old fella, younger brother and even dear old mum was persuaded to make the trip to Wembley. |

She had only been to a football match once before, when she was courting dad(why do woman always do that, just once?) and I am told she embarrassed him then by announcing very loudly, ‘what does that little boy in black do?’ To be fair, it’s a question we have all been wondering for years, none more so than this season of refereeing howlers. But that is for another day.

Sadly, none of my family are with us any longer. But the memories of that wonderful night against TSV Munich 1860 and Alan Sealey’s two second-half goals take on a very personal joy and sadness for me.

And it was our greatest achievement, bar none. May 19, 1965 was the date, you sense we will never, ever do anything like that again. The nearest game this season to the anniversary is our last home match against Everton on the 16th. Is it too much to expect the date and occasion to be given the respect it deserves?

Last season I wrote something similar about the 50th anniversary of our first-ever FA Cup Final triumph in 1964 against Preston, again asking the question about how the club were going to mark the occasion. My fears that it would not be handled properly were met with a gentle reminder from the club to myself and the KUMB editor that, in fact, everything was in hand.

And to their credit, they were. Even though there were complaints from the ‘64 heroes rounded up for the occasion that they were treated less that royally. I recall David Gold then got involved to put things right with another invite to a match this season as ‘compensation.’ Let’s hope things go a little better this time around, and as many if the ‘65 side that can be rustled up, will be honoured at the Everton game.

Bobby Moore and Sealey are sadly no longer with us, and John Sissons is still in South Africa, I believe Jim Standen lives in the States, while Jack Burkett has not been in the best of health. Joe Kirkup lives in Surrey while the likes of Ken Brown, Brian Dear, Martin Peters, Sir Geoff and Ronnie Boyce are all close to hand. It would be great to see all of them out on the pitch for a deserved ovation again.


When we were kings: Wembley, 19 May 1965


But as for us being in Europe next season, that looks over. I was never one who got carried away with our rise into the top four before Christmas. Money rules everything these days, in particular Europe, and I always had the feeling that we were not really good enough, without squad quality and depth--even less kids coming through from the reserves and academy--to be able to seriously rub shoulders with Europe’s elite, or even the riff raff in the Europa League.

I am also not too sure how the Davids would have viewed a Europa League spot, with a massive amount of outlay for very little cash in return, compared to the Champions League. We would need a raft of new players for a start and that costs a lot of money, and there is also all that playing on Thursday and Sunday stuff.

It didn’t stop a lot of folk getting seriously carried away. They failed to see that we reached such heights because of a more than helpful run of fixtures ahead of the Christmas double against Chelsea and Arsenal. The matches this year have been a let-down, one league win in 12 is nowhere near good enough, but again we have played all of the top sides, and just gone full circle with Chelsea and Arsenal again.

We should have beaten Manchester United and Spurs and deserved a draw against Chelsea. Fine margin there, and those five points would have had us right in the mix for the Europa spots. We would have to finish fifth or sixth, and it is not going to happen. We have to accept we are not really good enough. Certainly not able to carry the weight of injuries that have taken out three of our four strikers, two centre backs and seen our best midfielder’s form turn to dust.

It is going to be used, already is, as a stick to beat Big Sam with. Specially with the wheels really falling off after the FA Cup debacle at West Brom.

Since then there has been an unrelenting campaign to get rid of the manager, he is already toast in some eyes, in particular the anti-Sam websites who mount a campaign of ridicule, abuse and insults. His attitude doesn’t help, he has never been the easiest person to like.

But despite all the claims that he is already gone, |I sense our rulers are searching for a reason to keep him on. That would be the case if Lady Brady has her way, her remark in the Sun that he would stay ‘if I have anything to do with it’ shook up a few.

Dismissing her view out of hand is a big, big mistake. Like her heroine the lady is not for turning. She persuaded David Sullivan to keep the manager last summer, and I am sure she will be doing the same this time around.

For her, the game plan is purely financial. Going to the Olympic Stadium that she has worked so tirelessly for…smoozing around David Cameron and Boris…anywhere but the Premier League is an option not on her agenda, and suggesting she does not have a big say in what happens next is deluding yourself.

My old mate Ken Dyer, a week ago in the Evening Standard, said that talks on a new contract would start in a couple of weeks at a pre-scheduled meeting. He also said Sam wants to stay, and he should know, being the ghost writer of his weekly Standard column.

Ken and me go back a bit. He was West Ham reporter for the Southend Echo when I worked for their sister paper in west London. That’s a long, long while ago and I have always secretly envied him his job covering the Irons, while I went north to work with Liverpool and Manchester United, covering five European finals along the way.

Ken , whose cheery face can be seen these days on West Ham TV alongside Mark Noble and Sir Trevor, has spent more than 50 years covering the |Hammers and even played in the same Sunday side as Brooking…would I have swapped my five |Euro’ finals for that? You bet I would.

Ken usually gets things right on the Irons‘ front, and his stuff deserves respect. So low and behold, Sam comes out this week and says he expects to be here next season if the contract is right. Over to you Gold and Sullivan, make the next move.

Sam, as a few close to him believe, could just walk away with his survival bonus in his back pocket if the contract offer is not right. There are many fans out there, who would be more than happy with that. Get rid at any cost.

But the many who feel Sam should stay deserve to have their views heard, not ridiculed. Me, I just want peace in our time and a divided club united again, that may only happen if Sam does go now, such is the split.

There is a major swell of opinion against the manager being retained, some just loath the ground he walks on, others can see the sense of safe hands, while many just want the situation brought to a conclusion because it has severely effected the last few months.

We are told the Davids only want someone with Premier League experience, and there are plenty of fans already showing only lukewarm interest in David Moyes, what ever his former Everton chief scout Tony Henry can pull out of a hat now he seems to be in charge of all recruitment. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear Sam’s view on that!

You feel that the games against Sunderland, Leicester, Stoke and QPR will have a major say in the future, we may not be good enough for Europe, but a top eight finish would strengthen Sam’s hand.

But while we are waiting, painfully now, for the situation to be resolved, let’s not allow our great past to be forgotten. The boys of ’65 deserve nothing less.


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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