Graham Paddon only played four seasons at Upton Park but can be remembered as one of the most popular players of his time at West Ham. Born in Manchester in 1950 and passing away in November 2007, he joined the club from Norwich in 1973 and was transferred back there in 1976. In his short but sweet career in claret and blue he won a FA Cup winners medal and a runners up medal in the ECWC final the following season. During his time at West Ham he played 152 times and scored 15 goals. Personally, I remember getting really excited about Graham coming to our club – in midfield he was quality and he had a cultured left foot which was to bring a great balance to the team.
The time Graham was at West Ham were to be our most successful seasons of the decade. However, when he did arrive from Norwich for a fee of 170,000 pounds, in a deal that saw striker Ted MacDougall go the other way, the Hammers were in a mess. With just one win and nine points from 18 games relegation looked certain. Bobby Ferguson had been dropped by Ron Greenwood for remarking openly that “West Ham had too many gutless, spineless men in the team”. The under performing striker Ted MacDougall had been a big money signing from Manchester United just 10 months earlier but had proved to be a costly mistake. The swap deal with Norwich was to be the catalyst for changing fortunes at West Ham.
Graham made his debut for the troubled club at home to top of the league Manchester City. West Ham had previously not won at home all season but went on to win 2-1 and were only beaten six more times all season to ensure safety. But later Graham was to admit that he nearly scuppered the deal at the ninth hour. “When I arrived at Liverpool St station there was only a taxi waiting there to pick me up. That was a bit off so I got straight back on the train home. I told people I wasn’t signing because I couldn’t believe what they had done. When I spoke to my wife I changed my mind and decided to sign – it really was something I wanted to do”. Despite playing for Norwich many more times than West Ham, it was his time with us that led Graham to say; “my time at West Ham was even better, and my time there was the most wonderful of my career”.
Graham’s spell at the club saw the changing of the guard from Greenwood to Lyall. Billy Jennings and Keith Robson were signed and it was with Robson and Frank Lampard that Paddon enjoyed a great left flank playing relationship with. The team now had a really good balance. The Hammers went on to win the Cup in 1975 and Graham remembered; “the semi final against Ipswich was unbelievable. When we walked out at Villa Park there must have been 30,000 West Ham fans at one end. I had played at Wembley for Norwich with 100,000 there, but the noise and atmosphere West Ham fans made that day was unforgettable”. The following year West Ham were to reach the ECWC final. “The goal I scored in the semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg was my sweetest ever. We really believed we could beat Anderlecht in the final but we made mistakes on the day and paid for them”
The Hammers were to make another poor start to the season in 1976/77 and after six successive defeats Graham was re-signed by Norwich. In later years he would play briefly for Tampa Bay Rowdies and five games for Millwall. He finished his playing career in Hong Kong with Eastern AA. After his playing days he would coach for Portsmouth and Stoke, where he had a brief caretaker manager role, and finally as scout for Derby County, Liverpool and Leicester City. When looking back at his career he was to say; “To play with people like Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking was the highlight of my career. Ron Greenwood and John Lyall were great too and all the East End people were brilliant to me. The fans were top notch”. Graham died at his home in Norfolk in 2007 aged 57.