In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Ron, 70 and a Hammer since birth and Season Ticket holder for 40 years about a much happier night against Everton all the way back in 1980.
“Watching last evening’s very poor performance and result at Goodison Park made me rack my brains for a more positive memory of a clash against Everton and nine stuck out in my mind more vividly than a certain FA Cup Semi-Final close to 40 years ago.
Looking back, that was a very special time in my life and, of course, in the existence of my native East End Football Club, West Ham United.
After a period of sustained success between the early 1960’s and mid-1970’s, in which I watched fabulous Football down at Upton Park as my teenage years transformed into adulthood.
Since reaching The Final of the 1975/1976 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and tasting defeat to Anderlecht at Heysel Stadium, things had been a little bit quiet in East London.
But, this was all to change in the spring of 1980 as Silverware finally returned to Upton Park.
Which brings us nicely onto The Toffees, who of course, were our Semi-Final opponents in the 99th playing of Football’s oldest Knockout Competition, The FA Cup.
Having overcome the likes of West Bromwich Albion, London Rivals Leyton Orient, Swansea City and Aston Villa to make it to that stage, we were feeling confident against The Toffees.
Despite being a Division above us, Everton were struggling in The Top-Flight, and we were pushing for Promotion under the late great John Lyall, meaning that we had all the confidence.
The tie was to be played at Villa Park, it’s funny to think that Semis were held at neutral Grounds in those days, Stadiums such as Elland Road and Hillsborough, while everything stays at Wembley in this age.
Another strange thing about The Competition was that Replays were permitted at any Stage, as many as was humanly possible to decide the outcome of the tie, I can remember games being played five or six times just to decide who moved onto the next Round, silly really when you look back.
However, that’s what we did and what was threatening to happen with this particular matchup.
Getting around The Country wasn’t so easy in those days, but we were committed to getting up to Birmingham on that day, just 90 minutes from another trip to Wembley, or 240.
Four painstaking Train journeys on a warm April afternoon later, me and three mates arrived at the home of Aston Villa, whom we had ironically beat in the last Round.
But ultimately left disappointed for two main reasons, firstly, because we weren’t able to get the desired result, with English Legend Brian Kidd ensuring that Stuart Pearson’s goal wouldn’t be the winner.
And, secondly, because of another strenuous journey from our Canning Town home up to The North, this time the Replay would be held at Leeds United’s Elland Road, an infamous Ground at the time.
But, for us on a chilly night, it would mean glory, as my favourite player of all-time Alan Devonshire and Frank Lampard Senior meant that Bob Latchford’s strike for The Blues didn’t affect the final scoreline.
We partied all the way on the Train home and the miraculous Final victory over London Rivals Arsenal was just the more sweeter, but that’s a tale for another time.
Our triumph in The FA Cup that year made us the last team outside The Premier League to win The Trophy, having become the last all-English side four years earlier, records that I’m hopeful we can hold for many years after I’m gone”.