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What is your favourite ever West Ham game?

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Trevor BrookingIt’s like being asked “what is your favourite ever song?” You think of one that stands out, then something else comes into your head, and before you know it there’s 1001 tunes vying for the top slot and you just cant make that final choice.

And so it is for me. There are so many games that have stuck in my mind, some because West Ham were simply brilliant, and had me punching the air with good old East-end pride, and some because from the depths of despair, we somehow managed to claw back a result that seemed impossible. Some were high profile matches at grand stadiums, and some were played at tin-pot grounds where a fiver paid at the turnstile gave you entrance, a programme, a three course meal and a place on the board!

Great moments came flooding back; hammering the brilliant Liverpool 4-1 in the 1980’s League Cup competition under the lights at the Boleyn where a young Paul Ince came of age; smashing eight goals past a hapless and ‘multi-keepered’ Newcastle United in 1986; watching on a little black & white TV as an awe-struck 10-year-old kid in 1965 as West Ham beat TSV Munich 2-0 at a packed Wembley Stadium in the European Cup Winners Cup Final…the match where the immaculate Bobby Moore became a player of stature on the world stage.

The list goes on. The night when the then mighty (and dirty) Leeds United left Upton Park in shock after a 7-0 hiding in a 4th round League Cup Tie in November 1966: Reaching the FA Cup Final in 1964 after beating the mighty Manchester United of Best, Law & Charlton, on a swamp of a Hillsborough pitch 3-1, and of course remembering the unconfined joy of both Championship Play-Off wins against Preston North End and Blackpool respectively.

However, I don’t think I’ve experienced a night of football at  Upton Park quite like that of April 14th 1976 against the solid German side Eintracht Frankfurt in the second leg of the European Cup Winners Cup.

Picture the scene: the old ground (complete with my favourite spot, the Chicken Run, and its legendary neighbouring stand the North Bank) is crammed with a shade under 40,000 soaked and nervous Hammers fans. 2-1 down from the first leg, West Ham have it all to do.

The pitch is a quagmire and the rain hammers down all night. I can hardly breathe, so tight are the crown packed in, and its hard even to raise your arms to applaud the team out. Safety concerns are soon forgotten as the crowd get vocal and ‘Bubbles’ almost deafens me. The pride threatens to burst my chest as I clutch my claret & blue scarf, and, by now, a soggy programme that would fail to make the return journey in one piece!

Despite some good slick play, in true Hammers style, on an awful surface, its 0-0 at half time and there’s still everything to pay for. The relentless rain does its worst as West Ham mounted another attack. The raiding Frank Lampard senior gets to the by-line and whips in a cross. Trevor Brooking makes the near post and loops a deft header across and over the keeper and its 2-2 on aggregate. The crowd go mad, there’s no other way to describe it. The Chicken Run is a seething mass of soaked bodies and it leaps as one to salute Trevor’s goal. Johnny Lyall’s half-time team talk had done wonders because the boys are on top and playing some great stuff with all strings being pulled by the imperious Brooking.

It’s half way through the second period and it’s midfield general Brooking who slides a great through ball behind the entire Frankfurt defence for the on-rushing Geordie, mad-man Keith Robson. The winger miscontrols and the ground groans collectively as a great chance is missed. But this was meant to be our night! Retrieving the ball, Robson, checks back, looks up, and from 25 yards curls a top-corner beauty beyond the diving keeper and we are 3-2 up and heading for the final.

The previous display of crowd madness is but a memory as things go really crazy. The unconfined joy and happiness and noise and animation of young and old still lives with me to this day; suddenly all that tension, that waiting in long queues for entry in the rain and cold is made worthwhile. Could being a West ham fan get ANY sweeter? Yes was the answer. Only one man could have finished the job on the night with pure class, style and brilliance…Trevor Brooking.

A quick throw-in in the West Ham half, a ball touched back, and Tommy Taylor plays a brilliant 40 yard first time through pass to the maestro. Brooking collects effortlessly, moves into the box, dummies the defender with his left, turns to face the keeper, and with his right, coolly places a low shot into the corner of the net.

3-0….it’s bloody 3-0……Looks of disbelief are followed by a terrace party that would still be in full flow today had the ground staff not ushered us out, soaked through, emotionally and physically exhausted, and so, so proud to say we were part of Upton Park history that incredible night.

A late consolation from the Germans did nothing to spoil one of the all time great performances and nights under lights at our special little ground.

For the record, West Ham United’s team that night was: Day, McDowell, Taylor, Bonds, Lampard, Coleman, Brooking, Paddon, Jennings, Robson, Holland.

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Plaistow born Spencer is a lifelong Hammer and having spent half-a century plus, enduring this lifelong obsession, along with every other West Ham supporter, knows exactly what it takes and what it means to wrap that Claret & Blue scarf round your neck every other Saturday and head off for the Boleyn !

A Chartered Surveyor by profession, Spencer, now 58, has played, coached and managed at semi-pro level within Essex for a number of clubs, and, simply unable to give up playing, currently turns out for the Iron Maiden Over 35’s side when he is not watching the Hammers, playing guitar in his Classic Rock covers band Gunrunner, or more probably, injured yet again!

8 comments
  • jim says:

    two games both semi final replays the first v ipswich in 1975 alan taylors 2 goals we were underdogs though we had a much bigger support than ipswich that night as we filled the north stand and had half of the shed wich was allocated to ipswich the match was very open and we won coyi
    then the everton game in 1980 that was a much better game again we were the underdogs though over the two games no one would have thought that as alan devonshire was brilliant his goal was great and frank lampards winner was also great it was even better when ha ran round the corner flag never got home til 8 am coyi

  • Martin Longley says:

    Has to be the 3-1 defeat of Man U at Hillsborough in 64. Was 14 and persuaded my Dad to take me. Had to take 2 of his wartime crew as he wasn’t that interested – became a season ticket holder after and tried to buy shares (Cearns weren’t interested). Mooro made Best, Law and Charlton look ordinary and made that fantastic run from defence onto the grass with delicate pass to Hurst to blast the 3rd. Rehearsal for 66.

    Mirror headline was ‘Moore’s Muddy Marvels’. Says it all.

  • aladici says:

    Mine is the 4-3 win over spurs with Hartson kitson and dick’s getting the goals

  • Dave Cotton says:

    No, Spencer is right. I was there and you had to see the opposition to know how good a win it was. Jurgen Grabowski, who helped to kill off England in the 1970 World Cup was playing and he was more than a bit tasty.But the Hammers were unbelievable especially Brooking and Keith Robson wasn’t far behind. It was a fantastic win and on a pitch that they wouldn’t play on these days. Beating Eintracht Frankfurt was probably the best I’ve seen. Good on ya Johnny Lyall

  • evan says:

    The one that saw the end of allardyce

  • jim says:

    yeah evan i cant wait to that match either

  • PortugalChas says:

    As was mentioned in the main text, there has been so many great matches, for various reasons. The mere mention of the matches stated above bring back so many memories.
    One match I’d like to mention, is a mediocre home league game against Leicester City, I can’t remember the exact year, but I would say it was 1984, give or take a year. I seem to remember Leicester were struggling in the league, but true to form, we soon found ourselves a goal down. However, we were awarded a penalty and the ever reliable Ray “Tonka” Stewart stepped up to level the scores, but alas, this was one of about three that he missed for the club. Needless to say, we went a further goal down. After this we began to push forward with more regularity. I can recall turning to the person next to me with five minutes to go before half-time and saying “This would be a good time to score”. No sooner had I uttered those words and we pulled a goal back. Not only that, but we scored a further two goals, to go in at half-time 3-2 ahead. I remember a message was sounded over the public address system, saying that our three goals were scored in 2 minutes 27 seconds, if memory serves me correct. We went on to score two more in the second half, with no reply. One of the goals being a curling shot from about 30 yards from Steve Whitton, which had goal written all over it, as soon as it left his foot. Being approximately thirty years ago, I don’t remember the other goal scorers that day.
    Other games of note are West Ham 8 Sunderland 0, when Geoff Hurst scored 6 goals. In more recent times, West Ham 5 Bradford 4, not only was it a 9 goal thriller, but it was also when Paulo Di Canio threw his toys out of his pram and sat down on the touchline and was begging Harry Redknapp to substitute him. Also in the same match we were treated to Paulo and Frank Lampard arguing over who was going to take the penalty that was awarded to us.
    These are just a few memorable games and no doubt there will be more to come, as we can never guarantee what team is going to turn up on the day.

  • Pete Wisbey says:

    Brooking walked on water (or I should say mud) that night and we put in a performance full of skill and passion – that made it my best ever Upton Park memory under lights. Remember this was when Germany were winning everything and the Bundesliga was número uno. I was in the chicken run and the atmosphere was unbelievable with the swaying to bubbles which was reserved for special occasions.
    We played great football oas well – true to John Lyall’s principles of playing on the floor.

    Best away memory has to be FA Cup Semi at Elland Road in 1980 against a strong Everton team. Devo tore then apart that night and Frankie Lampard’s headed goal and corner flag celebration made it unforgettable. The Inter City Train broke down on the way home but no one cared and it was light when I got back to Hornchurch. – As a Hammers mad 17 year old little did I know that 33 years of hurt would follow our historic win against Arsenal a few weeks later.

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