In my fifty-six years as a West Ham supporter, I have seen some great occasions and some great goals. Apart from the 1923 cup final, I am old but not quite that old, I have seen all of West Ham’s greatest games and with these games, came some of the most memorable goals I have seen. Some of these goals are not the most technically executed but, by virtue of the end result and what they meant for the club and to the fans, they are all legendary – certainly in my estimation anyway.
This journey starts back in May 1964 when I was a young lad working in Legg the butcher’s shop in High Street, Plaistow, just down from the station. Unable to get time off work, I had to content myself with watching the game on an old black and white television that had been specially set-up for me at the back of the shop. When the final whistle blew, I can remember running down Plaistow High Street wearing a top hat decorated in claret and blue, which had a silver cup stuck on top, banging a meat cleaver with a butcher’s hook and shouting Words: John White “Come on You Irons.”
Who would have thought that a year later, May 1965, I would be in a crowd of 97,000 supporters watching West Ham win a European Trophy. We had battled our way through the rounds of the European Cup Winners Cup to face TSV Munich 1860 in the final and the atmosphere inside Wembley that night was electric. We played some great football and so we should as in our ranks was the World Cup trio, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Surprisingly, none of the fab three took the accolades that night it was Canning Town born, Alan Sealey.
He scored two goals in a two-minute spell to clinch our first European trophy. Of the two goals, the second was the most memorable as this sealed the win. Just as he would do a year later in the World Cup final of 1966, the legendary Bobby Moore would set-up the winning goal. Our Bobby picked up a poor clearance and sprayed one of his inch perfect passes into the box for Sealey to side foot home from close range. Bubbles rang out in Wembley that night.
Let me fast forward now to the 1980 FA Cup semifinal replay against Everton. On the previous Saturday, the teams had fought a well-contested draw at Villa Park. Both goalkeepers had a fine game and played a significant part in keeping their team in the competition. Big Phil Parkes was our keeper that day. The replay was a midweek game played under floodlights and at the end of normal time it was goalless, which meant we had to play 30 minutes of extra time.
Devonshire opened the scoring and at the time it looked as if we were going to hang on in there to scrape a one-goal victory. Then Bob Latchford popped up to score an equaliser for Everton. I was in the crowd that night and can recall the West Ham fans never lost heart; we kept singing and urging the team on to make one last effort. The fans were like the twelfth man and we easily out sung the opposition fans. What happened next went down in West Ham folk lore.
Brooking picked up a half hearted Everton clearance out on the right. He caressed the ball as only Brooking could, into the eighteen yard box right on the head of David ‘Psycho’ Cross who in turn, nodded the ball towards the penalty spot into the path of Frank Lampard who was uncharacteristically in the opposition’s area. Lampard dived to head the ball, which beat the keeper easily and it went in off the post for the winner. What happened next is legendary; Lampard ran out to the corner and did his famous jig round the corner post.
The West Ham fans were ecstatic that night and we danced the conga in the stands. Our coach rolled into the Boleyn around 3.30am but who cared, we had just seen one of the clubs favourite players score one of our most memorable goals to seal our place in our third final in the post-War years. Next on my list is one of the greatest goals I have ever seen scored. Yes you have guessed it, it is Paolo Di Canio’s superb volley that he scored against Wimbledon back in March 2000.
My words cannot do this goal justice, as it was pure poetry in motion. Anyone who has not seen it and I cannot believe there is any West Ham supporter young or old that has not must view the goal on YouTube. Whilst researching this article I refreshed my memory and watched it about ten times. I have seen some goals in my time but none to equal that one. If I live to be one hundred, I doubt if I will ever see a better goal scored.
Now we are right up to date, as the next goal has to be the most important goal scored by a West Ham player in recent times; possibly in our whole history. It is the goal scored by Ricardo Vaz Te in the eighty-seventh minute of the 2011/12 play off final. After ending the first half one goal up through a goal scored by Carlton Cole, the fans all thought we would dominate the second half. Within two minutes of the restart, Ince scored for Blackpool.
It was bad enough Blackpool scoring but the son of a West Ham antihero really rubbed salt in the wound but with three minutes of normal time remaining, Nolan ran on to a pass on the left flank. He ran forward towards the opposition touchline and crossed the ball into the Blackpool penalty box. Cole went for the ball and as he did the Blackpool keeper dived at Cole’s feet in an effort the get the ball. Cole was now off balance and as he went down, he hooked the ball into the path of Vaz Te who drilled the ball into the Blackpool net giving the keeper no chance of making the save.
This goal regained our Premier League Status. In turn, it will help generate much needed revenue through the Premier League payments and revenue from televised games. It has also given the fans the opportunity to see our players and the manager pit their skills against some of the best players and teams in the world. Therefore, in my opinion, Vaz Te’s goal has to be one of the most important goals if not the most memorable goal ever scored by a West Ham player.