Reports in the papers recently of Spurs’ match against Borussia Dortmund reminded me of when Dortmund were West Ham’s opponents in the Semi-Finals of the Cup-Winner’s Cup in 1966. Reports in the papers recently of Spurs’ match against Borussia Dortmund reminded me of when Dortmund were West Ham’s opponents in the Semi-Finals of the Cup-Winner’s Cup in 1966.
The early to mid-1960s was a great time to be a Hammers’ follower. A thrilling win in the F. A. Youth Cup Final in 1963 set the tone, followed by success in the F. A. Cup in 1964 and the European Cup-Winner’s Cup in 1965, then that massive contribution towards England’s World Cup victory in 1966. But, it is easy to forget that, amidst all that euphoria, there were quite a few disappointments as well.
Twice the Hammers made excellent progress in the Football League Cup only to be thwarted by outstanding individual performances from opposition players. At one point in the 1963/64 season, a Cup double seemed very much on the cards, only for West Ham to be eliminated from the League Cup at the Semi-Final stage by Leicester City, who were inspired by their England goalkeeper, Gordon Banks. Three years later, West Ham made it to the Final of the League Cup, only for their hopes this time to be dashed in the first half of the first leg by a hat-trick from England international centre-forward, Jeff Astle.
Three years later, West Ham made it to the Final of the League Cup, only for their hopes this time to be dashed in the first half of the first leg by a hat-trick from England international centre-forward, Jeff Astle.
Off the field, too, the mid-60s were not always days of all wine and roses. Alan Sealey, the two-goal hero at Wembley in May 1965, was to have his career cruelly interrupted just a few weeks later, when he broke a leg in training, falling over a wooden bench. He was to make a mere four more appearances in the Hammers’ first-team before moving on, firstly to Plymouth Argyle, then Romford and finally Bedford Town.
Johnny Byrne was another for whom an injury proved costly. Forming a successful partnership with Jimmy Greaves in the England team in 1964, Byrne seemed a certainty for the England World Cup squad in 1966, but he was injured playing for his country against Scotland at Wembley in April 1965. Byrne had played a significant part in the Hammers’ progress to the Cup-Winner’s Cup Final, but this injury was to rule him out of the Final, and also lose him his place in the England team.
Last year’s TV series ’Tina and Bobby’ related the problems faced by Bobby Moore in the build-up to the World Cup. With his health problems seemingly overcome, there was still a fractious relationship with his club manager to contend with. Matters came to a head just as West Ham were about to meet Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Semi-Final in the Cup-Winner’s Cup
Results in that 1965/66 season had been incredibly disappointing, but at least the Cup-Winner’s Cup offered some hope of silverware. But as kick-off time drew near, what happened on the pitch took second place to what was going on behind the scenes. According to Brian James in the ‘Daily Mail’, ‘Bobby Moore, the man expected to lead England in the World Cup contest this year, was sacked as captain of the West Ham team yesterday – 24 hours after captaining England against Scotland. He will be told officially of the decision today. He will also be told the club will not try to persuade him to stay when his contract expires in June.’
Elsewhere, there was speculation as to what sort of transfer fee the Hammers might expect for their former captain (a figure of £200,000 was apparently mentioned by Ron Greenwood) and which club was most likely to secure his signature (with Tottenham and Arsenal the favourites). References to the match against Dortmund were few and far between.
Quite what were the expectations of those 28,130 of us who turned up at the Boleyn Ground for that Semi-Final? The ‘Stratford Express’ match report had the headline ‘Beaten – But Proud Again!’ and told how we had seen ‘the Hammers of old, overflowing with all that old footballing flair, bursting with renewed confidence and looking at last like the trophy holders they are.’ Martin Peters had put West Ham into the lead early in the second-half and so the score stayed until almost the end of the match.
With four minutes left, Dortmund equalised through their left-winger, Lothar Emmerich. Two minutes later, the same player scored again. 2-1 to Dortmund. I have never known a football crowd silenced as Emmerich’s two goals silenced the Boleyn crowd that night. My mate Ron and I left the ground, walked along Green Street, stood on the platform at Upton Park Station, sat in the train, all in utter silence. When I got off at Mile End and said goodnight, it was the first words either of us had uttered since Emmerich’s second goal had gone in.
But fate had one more trick to play before 1966 was over. Fast forward to Wembley, 30th July. Three members of the West Ham team that had lost out to Borussia Dortmund were in the England team for that World Cup Final, with three members of the Dortmund team lined up against them. It was the Hammers turn to come out on top.