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The best is yet to come, but let’s forget Premier League records


Filed: Wednesday, 9th March 2016
By: Paul Walker


It’s started already hasn't it? We are happily being told that Slaven’s outstanding team with their string of brilliant results are on the brink of the best season in our history.

Utter nonsense, and nothing is certainly to send me off on a rant when someone, somewhere mentions the words, 'Premier League records'. Aaaah!

It is lazy, clumsy journalism prompted by the PR people at the Premier League who never stop churning our information suggesting something is the best since…well 1992!

PL records were invented for Sky, to give them something to prattle about that they actually had footage to back it up. The Premier League was nothing more than a rebranding of a much-loved institution for the benefit of moneymen.

Back in the old black and white days we actually won a European trophy. How does that square with the headlines now?

For the record…sorry…our best performance since the Premier League was invented by the marketing men is fifth in 98-99. But it’s just the best in 24 seasons.

The Football League started in 1888 and I have been delighted to hear an old mate, Alan Green, ridicule the whole concent of Premier League records on BBC Five Live recently. Brilliant, well done. Now let’s move on.

If the season ended now, with us fifth and in the FA Cup quarter-finals, it would be pretty damned close to our best-ever season. It’s good, but not it’s not quite Carling!
There is the need, though, to come up with a definitive ‘best season’ because the way Slaven Bilic is going, we will need to know pretty soon.

For me, it will always be the 1964-65 season when we lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Wembley, and we finished ninth in the First Division that season. The domestic cups were not so good, we lost our hold on the FA Cup in the fourth round, losing 1-0 at home to Chelsea, while getting to the second stage of the League Cup.



West Ham and Chelsea players observe a minute's silence for former PM Winston Churchill ahead of a January 1965 FA Cup tie at the Boleyn


I remember that Chelsea defeat like it was yesterday. Only because the night before me and my mum and dad, had queued for hours alongside a bitterly cold Thames to file past the coffin of Winston Churchill, as he lay in state. Me and dad had only a couple of hours sleep before heading off to the Boleyn. Funny how things stick in your memory.

Anyway, I feel, and it’s only my criteria which I am sure many of you will want to shoot down, that a ‘best season’ must take into account the rest of the campaign, rather than the one major achievement.

So there is a case for the 85-86 campaign when we managed third place in the top flight, and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals, still our best-ever league performance.

But back to the 60s. A season before the European triumph, we won the FA Cup for the first time, finished 14th in the league and reached the League Cup semi-finals before being beaten 6-3 on aggregate by Leicester, also has a shout.

So the current debate has prompted me to get the record books out and waffle on about the past. (I can see my son and his mates diving for cover as I speak!)

I was searching for something that might compete with ’64, ’65 and ’86. It’s tough, but I believe that trio is already the best bet.

The pre-First World War seasons were regional and obviously not really in contention either as Thames Ironworks or West Ham. The 1922-23 season saw us figure in history as taking part in the first FA Cup final at Wembley, but we still lost and were runners-up in the second division.

From then on, until relegation in 1931-32, our best league position was sixth. You can see where I am coming from, now.

The Second World War robbed us of a great team, with Len Goulden, my dad’s favourite player, the key. He was probably a comparison with Trevor Brooking, and that War Time Cup Final-winning side would almost certainly have got us promotion.

All this new-found knowledge is not me, it’s thanks to another fine book by Brian Belton, War Hammers Two. It has filed a huge gap in my West Ham historical library, and given me the chance to read about the Irons of my late father’s youth.

He was a teenager during the war, bombed out twice and reduced to a nervous wreck by the day and night bombing of the Blitz. He was tongue-tied and had a terrible stutter by the end of the war, but recalled his days at the Boleyn.

I can still hear my mum finishing sentences for him when I was a kid. I look at the youngsters around me sometimes and wonder whether they realise how lucky they are not to have gone through that.

OK, weepy bit over. From then until 1957-58 when we won promotion back to the top flight, there had been nothing but very ordinary mid-table second division rubbish.





The 60s take some beating. There was also the 65-66 season when we defended the Cup Winners’ Cup until the semi-finals, finished 12th in the league and got to the League Cup Final.

I don’t consider the ’75 and 1980 Cup winning seasons being better than the 60s. In ‘75 while beating Bobby Moore’s Fulham in the final, we were only 13th in the league and out of the League Cup early, We were ECWC runners-up the following season, but finished 18th in the league, winning only one of our final 21 league matches.
 
In 1980, as a Second Division side, we also reached the League Cup quarter-finals. Mind you, the following season we won the Second Division title , were League Cup runners-up and got to the European third round.

It was all the forerunner to 85-86. Third is still the pinnacle, but we also beat Manchester United on the way to the FA Cup quarter-finals. An omen for the weekend, I hope.

From, then on it was all pretty ordinary until 2005-06 and that Cup Final defeat by Liverpool, and a ninth place finish.

So to my mind, 1965 was the best, ’86 second, and 1964 third. Nothing else that the Premier League PR people can throw up will better that. Until Slaven really gets stuck in.

The way this season is going, it may well be our fourth best season in history. Still an amazing achievement. OK, rant over!


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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