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.