Filed: Friday, 1st May 2015
By: Paul Walker
Let's all take a break from the blood-letting and feuding over the future of Sam Allardyce just for a while and make sure we pay a fitting tribute to legends from our past who actually won things.
Let's face it, two wins in 17 league games - with just 13 points from that run - is horrendous. Relegation form; just how many managers would have escaped the axe for that? So thankfully we can look forward to some light relief at the Boleyn this Saturday when our heroes from the past wil be on parade.
This weekend the club will honour the best team--in my view--that ever played for the club, the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup heroes.
It’s 50 years on May 19 since Bobby Moore’s boys triumphed at Wembley against TVS Munich 1860, a memorable night in front of something like 90,000 Hammers fans.It was the night when Ron Greenwood’s vision of how football should be played - pass, move, pace and perfect technique - came to fruition.
Our much-debated 'West Ham way' was there for all to see that night. The tag may well have been coined by journalists - not the club - whilst watching the Malcolm Allison-inspired side of the late 50s who adopted kit, boots and style of the Europeans. By the mid-'60s, everyone knew what we were about.
I implore Sam, before he leaves us, to watch the DVD of that game, then he will know what we have been banging on about for so long. Oh, and maybe he can show it to his mate Sir Alex, who is so prone in his books to doubting that the West Ham way ever existed.
Greenwood’s vision was flawed at times. We never could defend, but John Lyall gave the style a more physical, organised approach. Harry Redknapp knew what we were about and Billy Bonds did his best to replicate it, albeit with vastly inferior players. The rest of our managers since Ron haven’t had a clue. Present company included.
Hopefully the club will be able to parade as many as possible of that ‘65 side, who I will argue were slightly better than the ‘64 team who won the FA Cup for the first time a year earlier. Joe Kirkup was an improvement on the ageing John Bond, Martin Peters by then emerging as a class act in place of the belligerent Eddie Bovington, while Alan Sealey had taken over from Peter Brabrook.
Brian Dear was in for the sadly-injured Johnny Byrne, to my mind almost on a par with the Moore, Hurst, Peters trio as the best players we have ever had. Byrne was wonderful to watch, and to lose him for a major Cup final was a bad blow. Like Manchester United without Wayne Rooney, or Liverpool minus Steven Gerrard of old, not the current pale imitation.
But West Ham overcame that lose and produced a display of quality, skilled attacking football still reckoned to be one of the best performances by an English club in Europe.
Only seven of our players have winners medals from both finals; Jim Standen, Jack Burkett, Bobby Moore, Ken Brown, Ronnie Boyce, Geoff Hurst and John Sissons. These magnificent seven are, to my mind, the greatest players we have had. Nobody can argue, surely, with their double-medal haul - although Byrne, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and Phil Parkes came close.
You could argue all day whether Brooking would have got into the team, because his role was so similar to Byrne’s floating deep attacking role. But I am sure that given the chance, Greenwood would have tried! Parkes was probably a better ‘keeper than Standen, but Bonds would have struggled to get into a central defence ahead of the greatly under-rated Brown.
I can say that, maybe not without total contradiction, because I saw them. Both finals, most of the ties in both competitions (not abroad, I was not that old!) And as for the current era, you really must be joking!
I want to throw Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie, Alan Devonshire, Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart and Paolo Di Canio into that mix, but I don‘t believe any of them would have got into either of our '60s Cup-winning teams. My old man would have argued for Len Goulden and Vic Watson, even Ted Hufton, but that was football from a very very different era.
But what is sad is that we have to look so far back for our legends now. My lad, mid-30s now and his mates must be fed up with having the '60s rammed down their throats. We chant about Chelsea having no history, well we have no present and the future is very much in the hands of the Gods (and that definitely excludes the Davids).
We have not won a major trophy since the 1980 FA Cup win, that’s 35 years in which a whole generation of West Ham fans have been cheated. Since Sir Trevor’s headed winner against Arsenal we have had one Second Division title, a losing FA Cup Final, a losing League Cup Final, one losing FA Cup semi-final and three losing League Cup semis.
Plus a couple of play-off wins and two fleeting appearances in Europe. Oh, and I almost forgot, an InterToto Cup win. (Well half really, because there were two winners that season.) Our sum total of European rounds completed, including the 1980/81 ECWC campaign is just six in 35 years.
There have been four relegations since that 1980 season and five promotions, plus eight seasons spent in the second tier. There was, of course, our third place finish in '86, and that was a more than decent team. But overall there is not much for the current generation to call a history.
So whoever the club have rustled up to commemorate the '65 success on Saturday, treat them with the respect they deserve because I doubt we will ever see their like again.
Paul's personal scrapbook containing mememtos of the day
And now I have got all misty eyed about it all, having spent the day leafing through 50-year-old scrapbooks, all a bit delicate now, but full of such rich memories. And there is still so much to remember with pride about ’65.
Dad, mum and my kid brother were all there with me and seemingly all the East End. The amazing feeling of walking back down Wembley way that night after Sealey’s two goals had won the trophy will live with me forever.
The noise generated by 40,000 for the recent play-off success at Wembley was pretty special. But just image what it was like with twice as many Irons fans there. Claret and blue, plus sweeping bubbles as far as you could see.
And as always at this time of the year, there are other special dates to remember, sadly most from long, long ago. Right back to the 1940 War Cup Final victory over Blackburn, that will be 75 years ago on June 8.
Sammy Small got that winner, my old fella was there in a 42,000 crowd, restricted to that level because of the bombing. Back in the '80s. when I was working in Birmingham, I tracked down Sammy for an interview. He was a lovely old boy, living in a quiet Brummie suburb. He was amazed that someone had bothered to find him. It’s one of those interviews I will never forget.
On April 27, earlier this week, it was 57 years since Ted Fenton’s side won promotion from the Second Division back to the top flight after a 26-year absence. For may dad’s generation who had lived through the Blitz, that was a wonderful moment.
I can still see his beaming face as he picked me up from a school friend’s party that Saturday in ‘58 to inform me the side had won 3-1 at Middlesbrough - Brian Clough played that day for the Teessiders - and we were champions. Dad had witness that previous relegation long ago in 1932.
The Cup win that sometimes gets overlooked is now 40 years ago and May 3 will be a special milestone for the FA Cup winning side of 1975, Alan Taylor’s two goals beating Moore’s Fulham. That was a pretty good side too, with Frank Lampard, Bonds, Graham Paddon, Brooking, Billy Jennings and John McDowell, but it was not as good as the ‘65 team.
Two personal milestones are also worthy of mention, one just for my sake because it involved John Sissons, who I had been at school with. It is 50 years this week (April 28) that John scored the goal away to Real Zaragoza that secured West Ham’s place in that ECWC final. I spent the night with my ear glued to a little radio in mum’s kitchen listening to the crackly BBC commentary. No Sky or TV of any sort for away games in those days.
And finally, I hope that Brian Dear will be with the legends of '65 on Saturday, because it is 50 years ago now (April 16) that I stood on the old West Stand terrace just in front of the North Bank, to see Dear score five goals in 20 minutes against West Brom, an amazing Good Friday morning.
So what is the next big date? Probably the 40th anniversary of that 1980 Cup winning side, and that will be in 2020. This season it is a mere 35 years ago. My son’s generation were not even born for that either, although he was sort of here, my good lady being pregnant at the time of the final.
And as I said, not a great deal has happened since, has it? Will that change, your guess is as good as mine. New stadium or not, financial fair play will still stop us competing with the likes of Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea. Boring or not, I would take a bit of Jose magic just now, so that we can at least compete.
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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