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Hillsborough and other stories

Filed: Wednesday, 24th November 2010
By: Paul Walker

KUMB welcomes Paul Walker to the team as he looks ahead to next week's Carling Cup quarter final clash with Manchester United...

Itís hard these days not to view a clash against one of the Premier Leagueís top clubs with anything but trepidation, such is the paucity of West Hamís current squad.

Gone are the days when we could always give the likes of Manchester United a hard time, such is the extent of our own shameful financial decline and the ever-widening gap between the big clubs and the rest.

So when Manchester United arrive, with what ever side they decide to put out at the Boleyn next week, for the Carling Cup quarter-final, few would doubt that a miracle will be required for the Irons to progress much further.

West Ham have lost their last six league matches with Manchester United, even if prior to that we had registered three straight wins over the Old Trafford club in a 12 month period. Can anyone ever think we could do that again?

A pretty embarrassing 3-0 defeat was suffered at Unitedís hands back in August, which had many of the hallmarks and an identical scoreline from the quite appalling display by Avram Grantís side at Liverpool on Saturday evening.

For those of a certain vintage, it hasnít always been like that. Our overall record against Manchester United has seen us lose just three of eight FA Cup ties, plus a 1-0 defeat in our only previous League Cup game against them back in Ď86.

I suppose we can only hope at the very least for a proper fighting performance next Tuesday from our current collection of the dysfunctional and the inept.(Rob Green, Scott Parker, Mark Noble and Jars Jacobsen are exempt from that observation).

Maybe we will see history repeat itself, because three of our finest memories have come against Manchester United in cup-ties.

For those of us who have been supporting this proud club for a number of years, mention Manchester United and a cup-tie, and Hillsborough Ď64 springs to mind.

I found some grainy BBC TV footage of that day back in March Ď64 while searching the internet for inspiration. What memories.

As a teenager then, it was my first trip north of Watford, even though I have since lived for 30 years up north and made countless pilgrimages back to the East End even since.

March 14, 1964, was a very special day. Anyone who was there knows the weather was horrendous, the M1 ended at Rugby in those days and the journey was a marathon. With my mum and dad, plus an uncle and aunt, we made that trek north to support the greatest team in West Hamís history.

I didnít know that then. As a kid you think your team will always be like that. For half a dozen years it was. But you soon learn that those were the best-ever years.

The rain poured down as we stood on the open kop end right up in that bulbous Ďlumpí at the top of the terracing. There was no segregation, and we all mingled in with the United fans. I recall hauling a giant metal rattle into the ground, it would never be allowed now, but it helped create a nice little space in front of me such was itís danger to life and limb.

Two goals from Ronnie Boyce, one from George Hurst and we had produced a momentous performance in the mud against the likes of Law, Best and Charlton to reach Wembley.

My dad forgot where he parked the car that day, and we trailed around a variety of pieces of muddy waste ground searching for it. I recall picking up mum and auntie at the shops two hours later that we had said, drenched to the skin but utterly delirious still.

It was a long, very wet, ride back to London. Mum never quite understood the significance of what had happened on that soggy return trip.

Since then more recent generations will remember an FA Cup fifth round replay win over United at Old Trafford, in our great season of 85-86 with Geoff Pike and Ray Stewart, from the spot, securing a place in the sixth round. Sheffield Wednesday beat us 2-1 then, somewhat ironic considering.

That only previous League Cup meeting with United was earlier in that season, a second-half winner by Norman Whiteside put pay to our hopes then. A defeat lost in the memory of a season that saw the Irons finish third.

And then there was the brilliant Paulo Di Canio moment in 2001, when he made a monkey out of Fabian Barthez with that stunning winner in the 76th minute of a fourth round tie. I couldnít get a ticket for that one, even tough I live less than 20 miles from Old Trafford.

I recall driving the wife mad because I spent much of the final minutes pacing the garden unable to watch at United had us under siege. Spurs put us out in the next round, but at least they didnít do on to reach the final, being beaten by Arsenal next.

Letís hope the spirit of Ď64, Ď86 and 2001 inspires the team next week. They really have been so poor this season that they owe their fans something to shout about.

But whatever happens, it will not wipe away the misery of this season, and last for that matter. Trawing through old programmes as I do, you sadly realise just how bad we have become.

Take the team that went down back in 77-78. Would any of Day, Lampard, Martin, Bonds, Brooking, Holland, Pike, Devonshire and Cross from that squad not got into todayís first XI?

And then thereís the team that went down in 04/05, with the highest points tally of any relegated Premier League side. James, Johnson, Di Canio, Cole, Sinclair, Defoe, Les Ferdinand, Kanoute, Carrick and Moncur would also all have got into this current side.

It has got so bad that we are having to listen to TV lectures on defending from the likes of Chris Waddle, of all people, I doubt he ever saw the inside of his own penalty area during his career.

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.

Your Comments

by Keith Springford
02:45PM 30th Nov 2010
''Reading the report on the Hillsborough semi was great. I was just 12, my dad was the proud owner of a new red Mini and together with my mum we headed up north.... A mad drive with the Mini's windscreen wipers unable to keep up!

Soaked, soaked during the game...lots of details I can't remember except that John Sissons played the game of his life, Bobby Moore was a giant and Ronnie Boyce's last goal - well! Made even more poignant because Ronnie was our neighbour in East Ham. His dad's grocers shop was opposite us in Haldane Road.

Well, let's not have too much of a rosy view of the past, there's been plenty of bad/abysmal performances over the years but I'm struggling to remember a more gutless performance than the 3-0 at Anfield. In fact there are a few to choose from with this current squad. Wolves at home last year. How did they get Scott Parker to stay?''

by David Bowyer
02:12PM 24th Nov 2010
''What a great game and victory against an excellent Man U team at Hillsborough 1964. It is one of my most treasured footy programs (I got pretty well every game for 1963-1999). Rain, rain, and more rain. Sissons running with the bucket and sponge for an injured team mate. Singing 'til I lost my voice.

Crowd was so jam packed that there were times when my feet weren't touching the ground. Soaking wet from the moment we arrived in Sheffield until getting home to Forest Gate. I also remember seeing the full game on TV in the 70s or 80s as part of a BBC 'games of the decade' series. Just to think that we nearly lost Moore shortly after because the owners didn't want to want to pay him 5 quid a week more!

Why can't our current crop of players have some desire to play and win? Rolling over at Liverpool was the second worst Hammers display I've seen. I was angry. These players make an awful lot of money. They did not deserve to get paid for that game - except for Green maybe.''

by Aussie Al
02:10PM 24th Nov 2010
''Spot on Paul, and your observations re our current and past squads cannot be faulted. My first game was in Dec '71, and I really am finding it difficult to really care about this club anymore , what with the likes of the two Davids and their scheme to move to the Olympic Stadium, our current hopeless manager and his largely journeyman team.''

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