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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Arsenal

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Blast from the past

29th November 1975 – a tragic day for British motor racing as the Piper Aztec aeroplane piloted by Graham Hill crashed in foggy conditions near Arkley golf course in north London. Hill, 46 years old and twice Formula One world champion, was killed along with Tony Brise, a 23-year-old driver making his way in the sport, and four other members of Hill’s racing team.

1975 saw West Ham United beat Arsenal three times: once in the FA Cup quarter-final at a muddy Highbury in March and twice in the league at the Boleyn Ground, in April and November. Today’s match focus falls on the final of these three matches, on 29th November 1975, a 1-0 victory in front of 31,012 at Upton Park which was achieved without two of the Hammers’ greats of the 1970s, Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking. Future Hammer Liam Brady started for the visitors.

Queen were number one with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Beelzebub had a devil put aside for the Gunners in the form of 22-year-old Alan Taylor (pictured below) who, as he was in the FA Cup quarter-final eight months earlier, proved to be the difference between the two sides. The winning goal arrived when Kevin Lock’s short throw was returned to him by Keith Robson, Lock sending over a deep cross which was headed down by Billy Jennings for Taylor to swivel and sweep home left-footed from six yards, under the body of Gunners goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer.

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‘Sparrow’ would be West Ham’s top goalscorer in 1975/76, scoring 17 goals in 50 games – he would also continue to be a scourge of the Gunners, scoring three more times against the North Londoners in the following two seasons. His goal in this game can be viewed in my video below.

This win moved West Ham up to third place going into December 1975 with John Lyall’s Hammers having already topped the First Division on two occasions previously in the campaign and boasting a league record at that point of Played 18, Won 11, Drawn 4, Lost 3. The Hammers would only win two more matches in the whole of the 1975/76 league campaign however with no wins at all from the last 16 league matches, dropping all the way down to 18th in the table by the end of the season and finishing only six points clear of relegation. Bertie Mee’s Arsenal wouldn’t fare much better, ending up only one place higher in 17th. The Hammers defied league form to reach the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final though before losing to Anderlecht. Brooking was named Hammer of the Year, Liverpool won the First Division title and Southampton won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Mervyn Day, Keith Coleman, John McDowell, Tommy Taylor, Frank Lampard, Kevin Lock, Pat Holland, Graham Paddon, Keith Robson, Billy Jennings, Alan Taylor.

Arsenal: Jimmy Rimmer, Pat Rice, Richie Powling, David O’Leary, Sammy Nelson, George Armstrong, Peter Storey, Alan Ball, Liam Brady, Brian Kidd, Frank Stapleton.

Club Connections

A large group of players have turned out for West Ham United and Arsenal. Lukasz Fabianski welcomes his former club. Other players to have represented both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: Charles Ambler, Richard Wright, Manuel Almunia, Jim Standen.

Defenders: James Jackson, Matthew Upson, Nigel Winterburn, Carl Jenkinson, Bob Stevenson.

Midfielders: Freddie Ljungberg, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Stewart Robson, Liam Brady, Yossi Benayoun, Archie Macauley, David Bentley, James Bigden, Roddy McEachrane, Alex Song, Henri Lansbury, Luis Boa Morte, Fred Kemp.

Strikers: Harry Lewis, Bobby Gould, Jeremie Aliadiere, Dick Burgess, John Blackwood, Fergie Hunt, Dr Jimmy Marshall, Kaba Diawara, Jimmy Bloomfield, Charlie Satterthwaite, Marouane Chamakh, Billy Linward, Lee Chapman, Tommy Lee, Ian Wright, Peter Kyle, John Hartson, Lucas Perez, Stan Earle, John Radford, Davor Suker.

Ron Greenwood was also assistant manager at Arsenal before becoming manager of West Ham.

Today’s focus though falls on a former Arsenal and West Ham defender. Steve Walford was born on the 5th January 1958 in Highgate; he spent some time with West Ham as a 12-year-old (when John Lyall had been the youth team coach) before beginning his career as a centre-back at Tottenham in 1975. After making a couple of first team appearances but struggling to make it at White Hart Lane, Walford became part of a select club to swap Tottenham white for Arsenal red when Terry Neill signed the 19-year-old for £25,000 in 1977. The Gunners had been Walford’s local team when he was growing up and he used to watch them as a supporter on the terraces.

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Walford’s playing time at Highbury was a more enjoyable experience – he featured as a late substitute in the 1979 FA Cup Final, when the Gunners beat Manchester United 3-2. A regular in Arsenal’s backline, Walford amassed 98 appearances for the club in his four years under Neill, scoring four goals. He signed for former Hammer Ken Brown’s Norwich for £125,000 in March 1981 and experienced relegation and promotion with the Canaries.

After just over two seasons at Carrow Road, the 25-year-old Walford signed for John Lyall’s West Ham United in the summer of 1983 for £165,000. Upon signing, Lyall informed Walford that he would have to adapt to a new position as the Hammers manager wanted to play him at left-back – Walford has since said that he “had played a few games there, but didn’t really like it”.

Walford made his debut in his new left-back position in a 4-0 home win over Birmingham on 27th August 1983 and stunned his team-mates when scoring a spectacular first goal for the club in his next appearance two days later, the winner in a 1-0 victory at Everton – popping up on the right flank, Walford’s right-footed cross in the 70th minute looped over goalkeeper Jim Arnold. It was a goal which Walford described afterwards as “a total fluke”. Walford made it two goals in his opening four appearances in claret and blue when he netted in a 3-1 home win over Leicester on 6th September 1983 – Gary Lineker had put the Foxes ahead but Walford smashed home the equaliser, again with his right foot, after Geoff Pike had squared the ball. This would prove to be his final league goal for the club, despite this early flourish.

The Hammers’ early season form in this 1983/84 campaign had seen them top the First Division table throughout September but the Irons would fall away to finish ninth – Walford missed just one of the club’s 51 matches that season. In October of this season, Walford was also part of the team which recorded the club’s record victory, a 10-0 win over Bury in the League Cup second round second leg.

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A very economical player who would use the ball with telling effect, Walford would only score two more goals for the club, both in the League Cup second round tie against Bristol City in 1984/85 – he scored in the 2-2 first leg draw at Ashton Gate on 25th September 1984 before rampaging upfield and slipping home the Hammers’ sixth in the 6-1 second leg win at the Boleyn Ground two weeks later. His 30-yard strike in the first leg can be viewed in the video below.

West Ham slumped down the table in 1984/85 to record a 16th-placed finish and the club’s supporters started to vent their frustrations. Speaking in a matchday programme last month, Walford said of the Chicken Run:

“They could be very funny but, equally, extremely critical and – even aged 27 – the crowd had started to bother me. There’s a line between banter and criticism and it affects different players to different degrees. I’d never experienced anything like the Chicken Run anywhere else and, rather than rise above it, my personality meant I retreated into my shell. Sure, the supporters pay their money and they’re entitled to have a pop but it’d started to dent my confidence and I should’ve been stronger.”

Walford would make 33 appearances in the famous 1985/86 campaign, with 27 of these games coming in the league as the Hammers claimed their highest ever league finish of third. Having performed consistently well, Walford fell ill before the FA Cup fourth round second replay at Ipswich in February 1986 and George Parris replaced him in the team – Parris played so well that Walford could only displace the youngster for one match in the remainder of the season.

The emergence of Parris put Walford’s position under threat and he only made 13 league appearances in 1986/87. Walford’s final appearance for the Hammers was on 7th March 1987 in a 2-1 First Division defeat at Charlton but he would remain at the club until 1989, by which time Julian Dicks had arrived from Birmingham and made the left-back berth his own – first-team football did arrive for Walford though through a two-month loan spell at Huddersfield in 1987, for whom he made twelve appearances. Walford also had loan spells at Gillingham in 1988 and West Brom in 1989, but knee injuries were starting to threaten his career. After registering 147 appearances for West Ham United, and scoring four goals, the 31-year-old Walford moved to Lai Sun in Hong Kong.

Walford returned to England to play for Wycombe under Martin O’Neill the following year and, after a brief spell at Wealdstone, returned to Wycombe as O’Neill’s assistant. He has since worked with the Northern Irishman at Norwich, Leicester, Celtic, Aston Villa, Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland; he has won the English League Cup twice, the Scottish Premier League three times, the Scottish Cup three times and the Scottish League Cup once. He also helped the Irish national team to Euro 2016. Walford, now 63, also had a brief spell as Neil Lennon’s assistant at Bolton. Walford said last month:

“I’m an armchair critic living on the Essex coast, nowadays… Sure, I sometimes still shiver at the thought of the Chicken Run (!) but I also smile because I have great memories of West Ham United. The Boleyn Ground was a bit special – a great place, with great people and a great bunch of lads. I thoroughly enjoyed my six seasons at the club.”

Referee

The referee on Sunday will be Jonathan Moss. The Yorkshire-based official’s matches in charge of the Hammers last season were our 1-0 win at Chelsea in November 2019, our 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool in January 2020 and our 3-2 defeat at Anfield the following month. He most recently refereed our 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool in January.

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Arguably the 50-year-old’s most controversial Hammers appointment was the 2-2 draw at Leicester in April 2016 when he sent off Jamie Vardy and awarded two penalties, the second arriving deep into stoppage time as the Foxes rescued a precious point.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United will be without the injured Darren Randolph, Angelo Ogbonna and Pablo Fornals while Ryan Fredericks is a doubt. Jesse Lingard, named in the England squad this week, is available again. Arthur Masuaku and Andriy Yarmolenko edged closer to a return by featuring in the Under-23s’ 3-1 win over Leicester last night. West Ham have won five of their past six Premier League home matches, including the last three in a row. However, the Hammers have won just three of the past 31 home meetings with Arsenal in all competitions. No side has beaten West Ham more in the Premier League than Arsenal, who have done so on 32 occasions.

Arsenal pair Willian and Bukayo Saka are doubts. All five of the Gunners’ most recent league losses, dating back to December, have been by a single-goal margin.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Lingard, Benrahma; Antonio.

Possible Arsenal XI: Leno; Soares, David Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Pepe, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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West Ham Till I Die is a website and blog designed for supporters of West Ham United to discuss the club, its fortunes and prospects. It is operated and hosted by West Ham season ticket holder, LBC radio presenter and political commentator Iain Dale.

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