By Tony Hanna – From the Archives
One of the darkest moments for our club came back in 1971. Ron Greenwood was at the helm and he was fierce in his views that West Ham were a club of pure principals; on and off the pitch. His captain was the “Golden Boy” of football and captain of England, Bobby Moore. West Ham’s style on the pitch was revered and Ron was adamant that there would be no stain left on the club during his tenure.
It was the 2nd January 1971 and West Ham had been drawn away to Blackpool in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Despite being only two places below West Ham in the League, Blackpool were considered very much the underdogs and it would have caused a shock if they could tumble the Hammers. However, the mist was hovering over an icy pitch and most Northerners considered the Hammers a soft touch in these types of conditions. Blackpool would be up for it on a freezing cold day and they had a new boss, Bob Stokoe, to impress. Stokoe had joined Blackpool just five days earlier.
To add to the Hammers woes, Geoff Hurst was out and his replacement Clyde Best was looking distinctly ill at ease on the playing surface. Blackpool’s midfield general Tony Green however, was taking control in midfield and after several mazy runs by the player he opened Blackpool’s account and followed up with a second before half time. West Ham’s Peter Eustace and Bobby Howe just could not contain the lively Green who laid on the third goal for Craven and before the end Henry Mowbray had thundered a fourth to make the rout complete. The 4-0 demolition however had gone to Blackpool’s assistant manager Jimmy Meadows head, who in an interview after the game referred to Bobby Moore as the “worst defender in the World.” The club and Stokoe were quick to offer an apology and Meadows lost his job for his comments.
But that was not where the story ended. It came to light that the night before the game, Bobby Moore, Brian Dear, Jimmy Greaves, Clyde Best and club physio Rob Jenkins had stayed out drinking in a Blackpool nightclub until the early hours. A disgruntled West Ham fan had witnessed what had happened and went to Greenwood’s Upton Park office to lodge a complaint on the Monday morning after the game. Shortly afterwards the Fleet Street papers had the story plastered all over the back pages. Ron Greenwood was furious and he wanted to sack all five of them but the Board of Directors persuaded him that fines and suspensions would be sufficient. It was clear that Ron Greenwood was not happy though. Brian Dear left the club within weeks of the incident and Jimmy Greaves retired a few months later. Clyde Best who was only 19 and rumoured to be only drinking soft drinks on the night, was the only player to play on relatively unscathed from the event. However, this was the start of what was to become very difficult times for the Greenwood/Moore relationship. By all accounts the wounds never fully healed. Greenwood had taken great pride and satisfaction from Moore’s development at West Ham but after the Blackpool incident their relationship was never the same again. Bobby Moore maintained that the whole night was just a social drink and nothing more. “I had met Brian London on several occasions and thought it good idea to look him up at his Blackpool nightclub – London’s 007 Club. We thought very little of it and we were in bed by 1.30am and got up at 10am. That’s a good nights sleep by anyone’s standards.”
The frosty relationship between Greenwood and Moore was to come to an end when Bobby was sold to Fulham in 1974. It is possible that none of the four players involved ever truly recovered from the episode. Indeed, Ron was to later famously say “he could talk about Bobby Moore the player for hours, but ask me about the man and I will dry up in a minute.” From Bobby’s perspective he had said “although Ron respected me, he didn’t like me.” Blackpool went on to finish last in the 1st division that season whilst the Hammers avoided relegation in 3rd last position.