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Fifty years ago today, Ron Greenwood showed us how to play

Filed: Thursday, 6th April 2017
By: Paul Walker

It was the Beatlesí fault really with all the current fuss about the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt.Pepper.

My era you see. I was a teenager, the '60s were in full swing and West Ham had won the FA Cup, the European Cup Winnersí Cup... oh, and the little matter of the World Cup.

And the music was better than any of this Simon Cowell rubbish we have to put up with these days. And Iíd just discovered Soul and Motown. What more could a young man ask for?

The painful trip back from Hull (I might have mentioned it previously) inspired these memories. Wine and the iPlayer helped, along with an newspaper article about the Sgt.Pepper album.

You get to start looking for memories of something better, and five successive defeats and a real relegation fight now suggests some positive distraction is in order. So what was my beloved West Ham doing 50 years ago, the season of 66-67, compared to the horror stuff we are being subjected to now?

Just how would this motley crew of now compare to the heroes of my past?

Silly question really. Embarrassing really. That 66-67 season produced the most amazing week of football I have ever seen West Ham play. Our current side, with their pitiful 41 goals so far in the league, will have to go some to match the 80 that the Irons notched in the league back in 66-67.

17 goals in three games started with six at The Boleyn against Fulham

And in one marvellous week in the November of 66, West Ham were unstoppable. A 6-1 home win over Fulham on 5 November, followed by a 7-0 League Cup win over Leeds two days later and then a 4-3 demolition of Spurs at White Hart Lane on the following Saturday.

Geoff Hurst scored eight of those 17 goals, John Sissons netted four and Martin Peters managed a meagre three. In that season, Hurst, Peters and Johnny Byrne scored 70 goals between them. Makes you think!

Frankly I see nothing these days to match the excitement, joy and awe of those days. The way we are drifting towards the drop, defeats at Hull and now Arsenal makes folk like me long for the old days, our old stadium and a team to be proud of.

And when people keep telling me our current players are bigger, quicker, fitter and technically better, I--and folk of my generation--know better. Maybe they donít drink as much lager now as they did then, but, hey, we all need a few beers at the moment!

Fifty years down the line, has the music improved? Not really. Is the football better to watch? Certainly not. Would any of this current West Ham side get into the team of 66-67, on talent, notwithstanding the Olympic fitness levels of today? Not a chance.

And continued with a 7-0 demolition of Revie's 'dirty Leeds'

Now I expect the youth of today, the sports scientists with their overflowing data we are subjected to now, to howl me down. Of course football is better now than 50 years ago, they will claim.

Sorry I know better. This piece was partly inspired by a 53-year-old codger who was commenting on one of my articles this week, when you could sense the frustration of what he is watching now and what you expect from West Ham.

You really had to have seen Budgie Byrne, the mastermind behind that magic week of November 66, to know what I mean.

Looking at those three games, Ron Greenwood named the same team for each match. None of this rotational nonsense. In the Fulham game it was 1-1 at the break, but West Ham then scored five in 19 minutes. It has taken them four games to score five currently.

The Leeds game was next. I recall being at college in Harlow with a dodgy old Ford Anglia, heaven knows how I got it there and back. But it was worth it, one of the best games I have ever seen West Ham play. Hurst and Sissons both scored hat-tricks and we utterly destroyed the hated Yorkshiremen.

I have never been able to find any footage of this match, having searched You Tube, does anyone know if there is anything around?

Finally, a seven-goal thriller at White Hart Lane

Then after all that we go to Spurs and play them off the park in front of 51,000. A miraculous week, I doubt will ever be better for intensity. Oh, and there were no subs then either. And where did we finish that season? A lowly 16th, scoring 100 goals in all matches--conceding 84 in the league--and providing the sort of all-round entertainment that epitomises what West Ham are all about, the true West Ham way.

And the comparison between the teams and, say, the side we put out at Hull, for example. Embarrassing really. Jim Standen or Darren Randolph in goal. Got to be Jim, he could even win the County cricket title with Worcestershire that year, and was as brave and sure of hand as they come.

Full backs? Eddie Bovington and John Charles against Sam Byram and Aaron Creswell. Well, Bov would have scared Sam just looking at him, and Charles was grossly under-rated and a better defender.

And the rest? Martin Peters against Cheikhou Kouyate, Ken Brown against Jose Fonte and Bobby Moore against James Collins..now letís stop being silly here. Peter Brabrook or Sofiane Feghouli, Ronnie Boyce or Robert Snodgrass and John Sissons against Andre Ayew. Now stop laughing all you old timers out there!

And the other two. Johnny Byrne or Manuel Lanzini and Geoff Hurst against Andy Carroll. Hurst scored 41 goals that season. End of debate. Lanzini has true talent, but fades from games and struggles a bit physically.

I just wish you young folk could have seen Byrne, who but for injury would have been in the England World Cup-winning team, no doubt, instead of Roger Hunt. After Moore, Byrne was my all-time hero.

Sadly too much booze and injuries did for him in the end. He passed away in South Africa at 60. But me and many of my generation will never forget his genius, playing behind Hurst. They scored 50 and 57 goals between them in successive seasons.

But in true West Ham tradition, things changed very quickly. Byrne was sold to Crystal Palace in the February, and we lost seven league games on the trot at the back end of the season--so Greenwood would have been sacked by David Sullivan under his six loses and out theory.

Mind you, as Byrne was in the Third Division then, Sullivan would have tried to sign him on loan with a potential to buy later.

In fact, we only drew the last game after that, at home to Manchester City. Times were aí changing, Ken Brown left at the end of the season, Standen was soon to lose his place to Bobby Ferguson, while only champions Manchester United--who won the title at the Boleyn with a 6-1 victory in May--scored more goals than the Hammers that term.

But thatís West Ham. Brilliant and barmy in one amazing season. So 50 years down the line, thatís what this current crop have to live up to. Itís no contest really, even if there was a lot more lager about in those days. Sgt.Pepper was released in June of '67, a masterpiece, but I loved my Hammers more.

There are a few more falling out of love with them at the moment, a rented ground and a seemingly soulless team. Maybe they will prove me wrong, maybe they will beat Swansea on Saturday, but match what we had 50 years ago? No chance!

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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