Hammer of the Year 1964: Johnny 'Budgie' Byrne

Continuing my look back to some Hammer of the Year winners who I’ve previously written about in the ‘Club Connections’ section of my match previews, today we take a look at the 1964 winner of the coveted prize as voted for by the supporters…

Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne was born in West Horsley, Surrey, on 13th May 1939 to Irish immigrants. He played youth football for Epsom Town and Guildford City while working as an apprentice toolmaker before his schoolteacher and ex-Crystal Palace and West Ham goalkeeper Vincent Blore alerted Palace manager Cyril Spiers to the teenage Byrne’s talents.

Byrne signed a professional contract on his 17th birthday in 1956 and made his debut against Swindon while still on National Service – he played in the same Army XI as Alan Hodgkinson (Sheffield United), Bill Foulkes and Duncan Edwards (both Manchester United). Byrne went on to score seven times in 28 matches in the 1957/58 season as Palace finished in 14th place in the Third Division South. He scored 17 goals in 45 matches in the 1958/59 season as the club became founder members of the Fourth Division, new manager George Smith leading the ‘Glaziers’, as they were known, to a seventh-place finish. In 1959/60 Byrne scored 16 times in 42 matches as Palace finished eighth in Division Four. Byrne became a first team regular, and was popular with the Palace fans. A new breed of striker, standing only 5’8 but weighing 11.5 stone, Byrne was adept at dropping off his marker and finding space before either assisting a team-mate with an inspired pass or using his own skill, speed and powerful right foot to create opportunities for himself. In the 1960/61 season, Byrne scored 30 of Palace’s 110 goals as the club reached the Third Division. He left Crystal Palace in 1962 for West Ham United having scored 85 league goals in 203 appearances.

Ron Greenwood paid a fee of £65,000 to take the 22-year-old ‘Budgie’ to West Ham United, a record fee between two British clubs – a jovial character, the nickname ‘Budgie’ was the result of Byrne’s incessant, cheerful chattering. The fee was made up of £58,000 plus ex-Palace striker Ron Brett who was valued at £7,000. Brett was tragically killed five months after the move at the age of 24, when his car hit a lorry. Greenwood would later compare Byrne with Argentine footballer Alfredo Di Stefano. Byrne’s Hammers debut came on 17th March 1962 in a 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday. He played 11 games in his first season, scoring a single goal, in a 4–1 home win against Cardiff in April 1962.

The 1962/63 season saw him score a hat-trick in a 6-0 League Cup win over Plymouth and end the season with 14 goals in all competitions, only one behind leading scorer Geoff Hurst. Byrne beat runner-up Bobby Moore in the Hammer of the Year voting in 1963/64 as the Hammers won the FA Cup. Byrne had amassed 33 goals from 45 games in all competitions for this season, overtaking Hurst as top goalscorer. This included a league hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Sheffield Wednesday and FA Cup goals in the fourth round against Leyton Orient, the fifth round against Swindon and two in the quarter-final against Burnley.

The 1964/65 season opened with Byrne scoring as West Ham and champions Liverpool shared the Charity Shield having drawn the game 2–2. He also scored a hat-trick as the Hammers beat Tottenham 3-2 at Upton Park (his treble can be viewed in my video below). Byrne scored in the first round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup against La Gantoise, the third round against Lausanne and in the semi-final against Real Zaragoza. In the 1965/66 season West Ham were again involved in Europe as holders of the Cup Winners’ Cup and also reached the 1966 League Cup Final. Byrne was on the scoresheet in the Cup Winners’ Cup, in the second round against Olympiakos, the third round against Magedeburg and in the semi-final against Borussia Dortmund as the Hammers exited the competition. He scored five goals in six games in the League Cup including one in the first-leg of the final against West Brom which West Ham won 2–1. Albion won the second leg 4-1 at The Hawthorns though to take the trophy with a 5-3 aggregate win. Byrne finished the season with 17 goals in all competitions behind Geoff Hurst who, on the verge of his 1966 World Cup success, scored 40 goals in 59 games.

Byrne played for England at both youth and Under-23 levels, becoming the first Fourth Division player to win an Under-23 cap while with Crystal Palace. Byrne, however, might be described as a talented nearly man, missing out as he did on places in both the 1962 and 1966 England World Cup squads. First capped for the senior England team in 1961, for a game against Northern Ireland and while still at Crystal Palace, Byrne seemed likely to figure in the 1962 World Cup in Chile having been transferred across London for a sizeable fee in the months before the tournament. However, Byrne was involved in a post-match fracas with West Brom and former England right-back Don Howe in the tunnel at The Hawthorns on 31st March 1962. The story goes that influential figures at the Football Association – where a selection committee still carried great influence when picking the team – were unimpressed by this and consequently excluded him. Byrne notched his first England goals in June 1963 in an 8-1 away win over Switzerland but perhaps his finest Three Lions moment arrived in May 1964 when he scored three goals in Lisbon as England beat Eusebio’s Portugal 4-3, Byrne clinching his hat-trick with an 88th-minute winner.

Byrne helped England beat Wales at Wembley the following season while playing at inside-left and started in the same position at Wembley again in April 1965 for a 2-2 draw against Scotland, in a season he comfortably ended as West Ham’s top goalscorer with 25 goals. For Byrne, a man with the world at his feet, one of the First Division’s top forwards, on the verge of a European final and now having the chance to re-establish himself in the England team a year before the World Cup finals, this proved to be the last of his 11 international caps. England were reduced to ten men against the Scots when Ray Wilson was forced off by injury. With no substitutes allowed, Byrne slotted in as emergency full back – however, Byrne himself then suffered an injury to his knee but gamely battled on with the Three Lions effectively down to nine men. Byrne’s injury, however, was serious with ligament damage to the knee and he had done himself no favours by playing on. He not only had to sit out the rest of the Hammers’ triumphant European campaign, but he was still not fit come the start of the following season. Byrne returned but could only show glimpses of his previous form and was hindered by injury throughout the 1965/66 campaign. His exceptional talents were never in doubt but, although he scored eight goals for England in his 11 appearances, he never fully established himself at international level.

Byrne’s last appearance for the Irons came against Sunderland on 11th February 1967 – in a fitting farewell, he scored alongside Hurst in a 2-2 draw. The 27-year-old Budgie returned to Crystal Palace, by now in the Second Division, in February 1967 in a deal worth £45,000 – his five years of service to the Hammers, consisting of 206 appearances and 108 goals, had ended up costing the club just £13,000. He scored one goal from 14 appearances in his first season back at Palace and four goals in 22 appearances in 1967/68. Byrne was proving to be past his peak as a player and, only a year after rejoining the club, he was transferred to Fulham for £25,000 in March 1968. Byrne would eventually go to play in South Africa, where he also went into management at Durban City, who he led to South African League and Cup titles in the 1970s. Byrne would go on to manage Greek side Hellenic and was voted Coach of the Year in 1993, winning a trip back to England to watch Arsenal play Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup Final that year.

Bobby Moore was a close friend of Byrne’s – according to acclaimed sports writer Brian Glanville, the two men once sat together on a warm South African night when Moore said, envisaging a partnership in management: “You and me, Budgie, you and me!” It was never to be. Moore passed away in February 1993 and Byrne died, aged 60, of a heart attack in Cape Town, South Africa on 27th October 1999. A minute’s silence was held for Byrne and his former team-mate Dave Bickles, who had died five days after ‘Budgie’, at the 0-0 UEFA Cup draw against Steaua Bucharest at Upton Park.

My video below contains six of Byrne’s 108 goals for West Ham United – his hat-trick against Tottenham on 12th September 1964, an FA Cup strike against Birmingham on 9th January 1965, a match-winning penalty against Arsenal on 27th March 1965 and a goal from the European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final second leg against Borussia Dortmund on 13th April 1966.

Transfer Gossip

So Farewell Then, Ashley Fletcher, Hello Andre Gray?

Every time I saw Ashley Fletcher play he impressed me. But he only ever started a game twice, I think. And therein lies the problem. If you don’t get game time, you’re unlikely to hit the net very often. Too often for Ashley Fletcher it was five minutes here, ten minutes there.

At the end of last season Bilic played Calleri in every game, yet Ashley Fletcher barely got a lookin. It didn’t take Einstein to work out which was the better player.

So today we’ve sold him to Middlesborough for £7 million. We ended up paying Manchester United £1 million for him last season, so not a bad profit! You have to say that’s a good deal for us and if we’re honest it’s a good deal for Ashley Fletcher. It’s a lot of money for an unproven striker, but he may well do very well in the Championship and I think we all wish him well.

So we now have three frontline strikers – Hernandez, Carroll and Sakho. I suspect that £7 million may well be used to buy a fourth striker. That man is tipped to be Burnley’s Andre Gray. He’s not a player I want to see at West Ham for footballing and non footballing reasons. Yes, he scored a lot of goals towards the end of last season, but during the whole season he only scored 9 in 32 Premier League games. To me he seems like a Championship player who isn’t quite up to the standard of the Premier League. If we do sign him, I hope he proves me wrong.

Tony Hanna's Musings

What's our best starting eleven?

With under three weeks to go before the new season starts and five weeks before the transfer window shuts, let’s have a look at what has happened so far regarding transfer ins and outs at West Ham. On the goalkeeping front, should Hamburg Hammer be right and Adrian is off to pastures new, it would mean that all three of our keepers from last season have been shifted out. Whilst Spiegel was never a strong contender for first team action, Darren Randolph was our first choice keeper for much of last season due to some erratic early performances from Adrian and I think the fee we got for him from Boro was pretty good business considering we got him on a free. Personally, I will be disappointed if Adrian was not still a West Ham player come the end of this window. From our defensive list from last season only Arbeloa has gone. In midfield Nordtveit and Tore have left and up front Calleri and Valencia have been removed off the wage bill. It is still likely that Feghouli will be shipped out as well but I am becoming more and more convinced that Robert Snodgrass will be a Hammer for the upcoming season. I have not included any youngsters (Oxford etc) being loaned out or discarded as the object of this article is to ask you what your opinion is of our best eleven this coming season?

So with the likely eventuality that the quantity of players leaving the club will be seven or more, on the other side of the ledger we have signed four players so far with the likelihood that there is still one or two lesser additions on the radar. The incoming Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Arnie and Chico are all players that are likely to be strongly considered for our best eleven – or are they? What do you think? If you were Slav and you had to name what our best starting eleven is, playing in the best formation to suit, regardless of opposition or any special match day tactics, what would it be? No sitting on the fence now, no hyphens, brackets or slashes because you can’t decide between certain players, what eleven players would you choose if they are all fit and well?

For what it is worth – here is mine.

Two of the early decisions Bilic will have to make are not directly influenced by any new arrivals. The first one is at left back. Neither of our options are perfect, in fact I must admit to having hoped that Liverpool would sign Cresswell and we would get the player they signed, Hull’s Andy Robertson. He is pretty much a complete left wing back and I am sure he will shine on Merseyside. However, in the real World we have Cresswell and Masuaku. “Mas” did enough when he got his chance towards the latter half of last season to convince me he is our better option. Very tidy on the ball and rarely gives it away, he also appears better at closing opposition players down and blocking crosses. He is still only 23 and has a great deal of potential. Cresswell enjoyed a very good 15/16 season when working in tandem with Payet, but his commitment to tackling, especially since his injury, is a real weakness. Masuaku for me but I do think Bilic will start with Cresswell when the season opens. He does like to stick with incumbents and this was most evident when he took so long to admit defeat on the Antonio right back project and also playing Randolph for so long last season when clearly Adrian was worth a second chance . The other decision is one that was becoming evident last season when Obiang found his feet and blossomed into a very decent Premier League player. How do you fit Noble, Kouyate and Obiang into the same team? When faced with the problem last season Bilic moved Kouyate to full back – a move I am sure will not happen again this season. An injury to Obiang eventually relieved the selection pressure on Bilic last season and an injury to Kouyate recently will mean it is a not a decision the manager will have to face at the very start of this season. Unless we have a succession of injuries to all three players though, it is a selection problem Bilic will have to face again and I guess current form will dictate which way he goes?

If record signing Arnautovic is to be played wide left does that mean Lanzini plays more central this season? And then what happens to Ayew? At least he can play left, right and central and he will be an invaluable squad player once the inevitable injuries and suspensions occur. New signing Chico Hernandez is another interesting one. Working in tandem with wide players Antonio and Arnie is a pretty decent prospect but in games where we are under the pump Chico is not exactly a “hold the ball up” type of player. If both players are 100% fit would you choose him or Andy Carroll or perhaps Sahko? Following on from Sean’s article yesterday about Carroll, I think many of us share his frustration. However, if he is fit and firing would you choose him in our best line up? I have despite the sick note frustrations and to be honest it was harder to choose him over Sakho than Chico – simply because I am not totally convinced about our new arrival. Whilst not a bad piece of business, especially at the price, I do wonder whether the hype has got the better of reality? I hope I am wrong but I want to see him doing the business for West Ham before I get over excited. In all my examples, all the aforementioned players could indeed play together as a varied amount of formations could be utilised. However, somewhere along the line there are going to be players that miss out. Which ones?

There are lots of headaches for Bilic this season in keeping such an in depth squad all happy. They will all want to play. Long may those headaches continue as the last thing we want is another season in the top four on “Physio Room” making the bosses selection process any easier! It does look a very good squad, especially when you look at my best team when it does not include Adrian, Byram, Fonte, Cresswell, Collins, Fernandes, Snodgrass, Chico, Sakho or Ayew. On top of that we have the youngsters in Quina, Rice, Cullen, Martinez and Holland all waiting their chances.

Good luck with picking your best team. I think we can look forward to this season with great optimism.

Talking Point

I am tired of Andy Carroll and his excuses

I’ve reached the end of my tether with Andy Carroll.

In 2013 we made him our record signing investing £15.5m in the striker, made him our top earner with a basic of £85,000 per week and an overall package understood to be closer to £100,000 per week.

We have been patient, we have been tolerant, we have turned a blind eye but the excuses are getting boring now and there is only so long a club and their fans can keep faith in one player.

According to he has missed 851 days of training for West Ham since joining and been absent for 109 competitive matches so far.

We have been told of countless various injuries being just bad luck but we have also told that an operation would fix a long term problem once and for all.

His injury record is one thing but then his social life is too often in the headlines.

We are told he is a reformed character since meeting his fiance Billi Mucklow and having a child with a second on the way.

Despite his insistence, he is now a family man social media pictures all too regularly pop up. He was pictured drinking pints in the Slug and Lettuce pub in Canary Wharf as the Hammers beat Crystal Palace in October last year, with that tabloid story coming after he allegedly pulled an all nighter with Darren Randolph in Shoreditch after a team bonding session authorised by boss Slaven Bilic.

CarrollThe latest pictures of Carroll allegedly partying in Magaluf last weekend come at a time when he is missing from the first team squad in Germany as they prepare for the start of the new season.

Despite posting social network photos from around the world on his holidays over the summer it appears he will not be match ready for the start of the season.

Of course, he has the right to a personal life and has the to go out for a beer if he wants but until he can pay back the Hammers faith in him he needs to be discreet and not allow himself to be exposed on Twitter or elsewhere.

Personally, I’ve reached the end of the line with Carroll and were I Chairman I’d try to negotiate to cancel his contract by mutual consent thus allowing him to join another club as a free agent assuming he could find one.

With just under two years remaining on his contract that would save almost £9m in wages alone. I hope I am proved wrong and he makes a miraculous recovery but I won’t hold my breath.

This blog was first published at but Iain asked me to republish on WHTID to stimulate debate on the subject.


Transfer Gossip

Jack Wilshere Unlikely to Move Across London to West Ham

I’ve always been an admirer of Jack Wilshere. If he’s fit, he’s one of the best players in the country and would grace any Premier League side. Rumour is that Arsenal have lost patience with his fitness record and they’d let him go for £20 million. That’s a lot of money for a player who has been injured so often. Sampdoria bid £6 million for him and that was immediately rejected.

Wilshere was a West Ham fan as a youngster and has intimated that he would welcome a permament move across London to join his boyhood favourites. If we could get him for £8-10 million I’d say that would be a good signing and worth the risk, but I’m told by a senior source at the London Stadium that there’s no interest. “He is too injury prone,” was the response to my inquiry.

My instinct tells me that this attitude will prevail right up until the end of the transfer window, when we might be able to get a cheeky loan or a cheap long term deal. We’ll see.

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