Winning the ECWC: Perhaps Our Finest Moment?

In 1964 West Ham won their first ever FA Cup. This success meant that for the first time in the clubs history, we would be representing England in the European Cup Winners Cup. The added bonus that year (1965) was that the final was to be held at Wembley. The Hammers started their first European campaign well and in the first double header leg we advanced beating Gent 2-1 on aggregate. The trip to Belgium was not so easy as today’s players would enjoy, with a coach, train, boat and coach trip via Ostend providing an endurance test before the game itself. The second round saw us beat the highly regarded Czech team Sparta Prague 2-0 at home and lose 2-1 away to progress on aggregate. Bobby Moore missed both games and Greenwood played Ronnie Boyce as sweeper – a great tactical move by the great man as “Ticker” played a couple of blinders.

In the quarter finals we beat Lausanne Sport of Switzerland 2-1 and followed up with a 4-3 win at home. Three of our six goals in that round were scored by Brian Dear. We were perhaps a bit fortunate to have him in the side as the day of the first match Geoff Hurst saved Brian’s life in a swimming pool incident. It is not a good idea to stumble into the deep end when you can’t swim! Good job Sir Geoff was on hand to save the day again! Indeed we were probably lucky to have Bobby Moore in the side as well. He had recovered from testicular cancer the year before after having a testicle removed.

The semi final saw us play Real Zaragoza. The Spanish team were beaten 2-1 at Upton Park and the second leg finished 1-1 to see West Ham through to the final. It was an opportunity for the Hammers to become only the second English team to win a European trophy. The opponents for the final were German team Munich 1860.

In its time it was remembered as a game for the purists. The game was considered to be one of the best matches ever played at Wembley as both teams played magnificently. Two goals from Alan Sealey secured a 2-0 winning score line and “Bubbles” rang around Wembley for the second successive year. The two goal hero was to break a leg a few weeks later, playing an impromptu game of cricket at Chadwell Heath. He only played four more times for West Ham and his career took a spiralling downward turn after the injury.

Much of the success of the campaign has to go to the manager Ron Greenwood. He changed normal tactics to counter the European game, especially the away legs. Bobby Moore would play as a deeper sweeper and Geoff Hurst was dropped back into a deeper role behind either Budgie Byrne or Brian Dear. The wingers also fell back to help defensively in a 4-4-1-1 system.

As winners the Hammers had automatic entry to the competition the following year and just failed by going down in the semi-finals to eventual winners Borussia Dortmund. The win in 1965 was considered to be manager Ron Greenwood’s finest moment. At the end of the year West Ham were voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Team Award.

Transfer Gossip

Is Carlton Cole to Sign or are there Alternative Options Out There?

It has been alleged that our would be saviour, Carlton Cole, has returned with disappointingly lows levels of fitness.This has been stated on Jack Sullivan’s twitter account and, it would appear, that the club are now looking at other free agent options. It may be that Carlton Cole trains at the club, to work on his fitness levels, and the club will review his situation in due course. That could mean bringing in another free agent, who presumably managed to maintain his fitness levels at an acceptable level.

There is no more to say about Carlton Cole’s situation for the time being, lets just see what happens on that front. So who else might be in the frame to join? I am sure that there are a number of formerly highly regarded strikers, well past their best, on UEFA’s free agents list. However, there is another interesting possibility being discussed on the Hammers blogosphere. Apparently, 27 year old Romanian international Ciprian Marica is still looking for a club and could provide a possible solution.The former Shaktar Dontesk, Stuttgart and Schalke striker is 6ft 1in and can play as a target man, a second striker and even out wide. And that is a versatility that may appeal to Sam Allardyce. In terms of goal scoring prowess, he is not prolific. Marica has to date scored 68 goals in 330 league and cup appearances, an approximate 1 in 5 ratio. However, his strike rate improves at international level, where he has scored 21 goals in 61 appearances for Romania, roughly a 1 in 3 strike ratio.

Marica’s contract expired at Schalke last July. He is a former team mate of Razvan Rat at Shaktar and a current colleague in the Romanian international squad. Perhaps that link might be instrumental in brokering a deal. In the summer. the player was linked with a move to Arsenal and there has been prior interest in him by such European big hitters as Lazio, Inter-Milan and Marsailles. He could do a job deputising for Andy Carroll, in terms of leading the attack, but he does not appear to be the type of prolific goal scorer that we need. Still, he may be worth a contract, if his personal terms are acceptable. And at this juncture, he is probably one of the better centre forward free agent options one there.

There are other reports this morning that West Ham are also interested in signing another free agent, ex-Chelsea defender Khalid Boulahrouz. The 31 year old defender has recently been released by Sporting Lisbon and is allegedly known by the somewhat disturbing nick name of ‘Khalid the Cannibal!’ He was signed by Jose Mourinho in 2006 for Chelsea but struggled to convince, failing to dislodge their favoured centre back pairing of Terry and Carvalho. It does raise the issue of whether he would fare any better with us. With Reid, Collins, Tomkins and Chambers in the squad do we even really need him? Perhaps Sam Allardyce wants extra defensive cover in the aftermath of Diarra’s injury? Whatever the case, he is likely to come in as cover and it begs the question whether the deal is justified in terms of the best use of allegedly limited resources.

So, we finished our transfer dealings early did we? If that is true, why is the club now seemingly looking for possible striking options in the bargain bins of European football? Because they need to, because they know that our strike force is much the same as last season and that it previously fell short of expectations, especially in away games. It needed upgrading with the addition of a good quality finisher and we ultimately failed to do that. A fit and in-form Andy Carroll can change things if he avoids last season’s recurring injury absences. But it is a fine line to tread and we need back up options. The club need to find an option(s) that will suffice until January, when hopefully things can be put it right.

The club should do itself a real favour and allocate the funds to land Jordan Rhodes in January. Although it might prove difficult if he maintains his hitherto prolific strike rate for Blackburn Rovers. We should have signed him from Huddersfield Town and also this summer. Hopefully it will be third time lucky in January. It is amazing that a striker with his goal scoring record has not yet attracted any top tier interest. And it says something about the prospects of home grown talent in the overseas player obsessed Premier League. The Club must also ensure an early clear out of some of the fringe players to facilitate one or two new signings. Who knows, if the club start planning the transfer business now, they might just get it right come January!

SJ. Chandos.


The Billy Bonds Story - Six Part Video Documentary

Robert Banks has been posting videos on the Stop Hammertime! Facebook page, showing a documentary of Billy Bonds, including a lot of interview time with the great man himself. It comes to nearly two hours in all, but it’s a fascinating insight into one of the greatest players ever to pull on a claret and blue shirt. Enjoy!

Talking Point

We Feel Like We Have Been Let Down

Back in 1986 we had a real chance to play among the big boys. We had finished third, but the owners of the club failed to match the fans’ ambitions and didn’t invest in any new players. We all know what happened then. In some ways we feel we are in a similar position now. We know we have the nucleus of a pretty decent side. Sure, more than £20 million has been spent on new players this summer, but £6 million of it was spent on a player we didn’t need, in a position we didn’t need to fill, leaving us with no money to buy a player for the position we certainly needed to fill – that of second striker.

Sam Allardyce

We were constantly warned that if we spent any money on a new striker, we could only do so if we shipped a player or two out, yet no attempt was made to do that until it was too late, and one player, Vaz Te, had handed in a transfer request. The manager professed his profound happiness with his squad despite having no striker cover. I never believed that for a minute, and as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Sam Allardyce was as good at spin as Alastair Campbell.

Yet I wonder now whether he was speaking the truth. I wonder whether he really did believe his own words and that he was indeed happy with the squad. If so, we should be very worried indeed.

When Sam Allardyce was appointed, I was a huge sceptic. I remember emailing David Sullivan pleading with him not to consider Allardyce. He replied that Sam’s record was great, although he’d have to change his style of play if he came to West Ham. And to be fair to him, he has certainly adapted it, if not wholly ditched it. Slowly but surely I was won round, I didn’t particularly like his style of play in the Championship, but he got us up. That was what mattered. And no one can say that a 10th place finish last season wasn’t an achievement. It was. And signing Andy Carroll on loan was a brilliant move. I couldn’t have been happier when Carroll signed permanently. But then I got carried away. I started salivating over who might partner him up front, should Allardyce ever ditch his 4-5-1, oh sorry, 4-3-3 formation. Could it be Bony, Defoe, Ba. The list went on. I was sure, though, that it would be someone, that a manager of Allardyce’s pedigree would sign a top quality striker. Indeed, I expected him to sign two. No one can expect to have a good season without four strikers in their squad. Little did I realise that Sam Allardyce apparently believes that you can go a full season with only one main striker, and a deputy who is as effective as a powerpuff.

I believe we have a brilliant central defensive partnership. Our full backs are more than adequate. Our central midfield is great. We have more than adequate wingers. Anyone can see that the missing link is an effective goalscorer. And yet we sit here today, sipping our afternoon tea, wondering what might have been.

Ah, but you don’t understand, David Sullivan will tell us. And I am sure we will soon get the Club Statement on the Website. Here’s what it will say…

The manager and owners of the club made strenuous efforts right up until the last minute to bring new players to the club. We could not have done more. We realise how disappointed fans will be, but we have to abide by the Financial Fair Play rules. We always said that we would have to sell before we could buy, but sadly that proved impossible. The manager would like to reiterate he is very happy with his squad and looks forward to a successful season.

Gold Sullivan

It’s not quite like that, of course. One has to ask why we were the only club to constantly cite the FFP rules as a reason we could not bring in more players. The rules don’t even come in until 2015, and although they do require the 2013-14 accounts to be in order, they are for the full financial year. So it was perfectly possible to buy someone in this window and then make up the shortfall by selling a couple of non essential players in the January window. The likes of Norwich and Southampton seemed to bring in as many players as they liked without worrying about breaching FFP rules. Tottenham too. Is anyone seriously telling me that they won’t go over their limit?

I bought an extra season ticket this year so I could bring friends to watch games. On Saturday, I was with three people who came to a football match for the first time. I wouldn’t blame any of them for never wanting to darken our doors again. But I could forgive that because I was sure that things would get better. I now feel cheated. I know what is going to happen now. It’s what happened under Curbishley and Roeder. We’re now going to be palmed off with one or possibly two free agents – players who couldn’t get a contract any other way. It’s going to be the likes of Tristan or Di Michele. Carlton Cole is now making what I hope will be a glorious return. I suggested this in a column a few weeks ago and was ridiculed for it. I love Carlton as a bloke, but is he now our future? Well, better him than Maiga. Like any true fan, I give him a hearty welcome back.

Perhaps we wouldn’t worry so much if our midfielders were in any way prolific scorers, but with the exception of Nolan they’re not. Jarvis ought to score far more goals than he does, the same with Diame. And now we have the prospect of both Downing and Cole being out for weeks. Then there’s Vaz Te. Is his head ever going to be right? If we don’t bring in any loan players, he’s the one who ought to be stepping up to the plate and playing through the middle if Carroll isn’t available.

David Gold and David Sullivan have in many ways performed wonders for this club. Allardyce too. But this month the three of them should not be surprised if we all feel they have let us all down. Let’s now have some honesty from them and let them admit it. They would go up in many people’s estimation if they did.

Talking Point

Why Do We Support West Ham?

Bill Shankly once said “some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it is much more serious than that”.

I feel some pity towards people who scoff at my passion for West Ham United Football Club. “It is only a bunch of men kicking a football around” was a favourite saying of my mum and I am sure you have all heard that saying from someone in your life? “It is only a game – what is all the fuss about” is another line spouted by many others who have not been “lucky” enough to join the masses that follow different football clubs from around the World.

Those reading this post will perhaps look back at the first reason they started to fall in love with West Ham United.The reasons may vary but the first real experiences of going to see your team play will almost certainly have got you hooked. It is no wonder we have clubs offering heavily reduced kids prices for certain matches. They realise that like drug addicts, the chances of being hooked for life are high, meaning additional revenue for them whether it be through match day tickets or merchandise.

West Ham fans are no different to others in that once you join the “tribe” that follows your team, they consider themselves part of that teams journey for life. I remember back when I followed the Hammers home and away and an uncle that used to come for lunch on Sundays would immediately know how West Ham had played the previous day – just by my disposition. The people that blog on this website are no different. Prior to our loss to Stoke everyone was beaming about what strength we had in depth, and although we all wanted a new striker the vibes were positive for a top ten finish. Since Saturday the bloggers response has plummeted to fear of relegation and doom and gloom all around. Us self confessed West Ham addicts, bask in the glory of winning and share the mourning of defeats.

Studies show that a football fans sex drive increases after wins and drops when their team loses. Losing can see fans eat more fatty food and drink more alcohol. Other research shows that the release of a football match can be good therapy. Being able to yell, sing and shout, fans can vent out a lot of built up emotions and stresses from the weekly life of work and any problems at home.

One thing is for sure. A person can change his clothes, his house, his girlfriend and even his sexual orientation. But changing their favourite football team is an unacceptable sin. Whatever happens in the next 35 EPL games we can rest assured, we will all be supporting West Ham United for life!

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