Just before 9.30pm on Wednesday 19 May 1965, Bobby Moore climbed the 39 steps at the old Wembley Stadium to collect the Cup Winners Cup for West Ham United. The 2-0 victory over 1860 Munich had been the most thrilling climax to a remarkable journey for the Hammers, who had defeated some of Europe’s biggest names en route to the final with a side which largely came through the youth ranks.
For Moore, it would be the middle installment of a stunning Wembley treble having lifted the FA Cup at the stadium the year before and he would claim the World Cup in England colours the following summer. But for West Ham, it would be the pinnacle of a golden generation who would put the club on the European map whilst playing a brand of passing football that would become known as the ‘West Ham way’ and influence the direction of the club for the next five decades.
Here, 50 years on, some of the players who represented the Irons that night relive their experiences of the night and share their stories. ‘I can remember in the build-up to the game I wasn’t nervous at all,’ Jack Burkett told Blowing Bubbles. ‘I was very nervous before the FA Cup final against Preston the year before and it showed but I think going through that match at Wembley really helped prepare mentally for 1860 Munich.
‘I was also very fortunate to even be playing as around Christmas time I had a bad back injury and was out for a couple of months. It was touch and go whether or not I would play football again. I managed to get back into the first team the week before we played Zaragoza and that Victory: Bobby Moore holds aloft the Cup Winners Cup after West Ham beat 1860 Munich 2-0 was it.’ West Ham’s squad stayed at the Hendon Hall hotel in the buildup, the same venue they had been based before their FA Cup triumph over Preston North End the year before.
Forward Brian Dear hadn’t been involved in that game but was impressed as he soaked up the atmosphere the day before the kick-off. ‘I remember staying at the hotel the day before,’ he said. ‘The FA Cup Final team had stayed there so it wasn’t new to many but to me it was and I can remember the great view it had of the stadium
‘We didn’t do too much the day before the final. We did some light training to stretch out the coach trip to Wembley but I can remember we were all excited about the final. ‘That evening nobody did too much, most of us stayed at the hotel and chatted about what we hoped to do the following evening. We knew that they had some really strong players and their ‘keeper was quite a big man – a very imposing figure.’
If the players knew how tough the game would be ahead of the fixture they probably did not realize the magnitude of the game and what it meant to the club’s supporters until they made their way to the stadium. ‘I can remember there being so many fans on Wembley Way,’ added Dear. ‘It was awesome. The fans were banging on the windows and we were travelling at a snail pace so we got the chance to look out at all the banners and scarfs. It was difficult to take it all in.’
Once safely inside the dressing room, manager Ron Greenwood was in his element and went out of his way to make sure every player felt composed and ready. ‘Before we went out Ron went round the dressing room and spoke to every player individually,’ recalled Dear. ‘He was going through The prize: West Ham’s players do a lap of honour with the Cup Historic: The Cup Winners Cup final programme from the 1965 clash is now a collectors item what we were going to do, what was expected of us and how we were going to play. He was also making sure we all felt pretty good about ourselves before we went onto the pitch .
‘There were a few of us bashing each other on the chest and then we were on our way. I was walking behind Bobby and I can remember him asking me how I was feeling and I replied that I was feeling OK. He just turned and said well at least you’ll get your photo taken and how right he was. Today in my kitchen I have a massive picture of us walking out of that tunnel and I look at that picture every day.
If the party atmosphere around Wembley had been good, the noise levels that hit the players as they walked out onto the pitch was something none of them had ever experienced before as they were hit by a wall of sound. ‘I can still vividly remember the noise around Wembley as we walked out onto the pitch and seeing our supporters and the flags waving all around the ground,’ added Burkett.
‘When you’re used to playing in front of 30,000 people and then you play in front of 100,000 it makes a huge difference but again having played in front of such a large crowd in the 1964 FA Cup final helped us.’ Finally, at 7.30pm the game kicked off and while West Ham had the better of the opening exchanges it was clear the Germans would be no pushovers as they gave as good as they got
‘Munich were a very good side,’ recalled Ronnie Boyce. ‘They were full of internationals and had some great players like Rudi Brunnenmeier. Their goalkeeper Petar Radenkovic was also very good and was a really imposing figure.’ ‘The Germans played well,’ said Burkett. ‘They really helped to make the game as good as it was. They had some good players.’
Whilst the passing was crisp and the football attractive, the battle for possession was fierce, with both teams giving as good as they got in the middle of the park. ‘My standout memory was Brian Dear, who came in for Johnny Byrne, getting tackled by Radenkovic way outside the penalty box and from that resulting free kick we scored our The West Ham line-up Heroes: The Hammers players are congratulated as they walk down the steps at Wembley second goal,’ laughed Boyce. ‘Whenever I see Brian we have a laugh about it!’
Dear himself shrugs off the tackle and praised the honesty of both teams, insisting there was no diving or play acting. ‘One memory I have of that game was that the trainer only came on the once,’ he recalled. ‘It was within the first 10 minutes and I had clattered into their ‘keeper but after that neither side had players down injured. That’s not to say it wasn’t competitive and we weren’t going in strongly.’
Despite West Ham having the better of the opening period, 1860 Munich also had their moments and had Jim Standen to thank for ensuring they went in on level terms. After the break, however, the Hammers turned the screw and it seemed only a matter of time before they would pierce the resolute German defence.
The breakthrough came in the 70th minute when Ronnie Boyce threaded a pass between two defenders and Alan Sealey showed great composure to score from a difficult angle. Two minutes later and West Ham doubled their lead. Munich failed to clear a free kick and Moore crossed the ball back into the area. For once Radenkovic failed to collect the ball and Sealey slotted home his second goal to seal the match for the Londoners .
‘I’d had a couple of chances and I had a goal ruled offside,’ added Dear. ‘I would have liked to have scored but it wasn’t to be. ‘I was involved in the second goal though as Bobby had put me through and their goalkeeper had run out 30 yards to tackle me and from the resulting free kick, Sealey scored his second goal.’
The second goal gave Magical moment: Alan Sealey celebrates after he scored West Ham’s second goal (below) West Ham a cushion and the Irons played out the remaining minutes without ever looking like they would let Munich back into the game. ‘I can remember not wanting the game to end,’ added Burkett. ‘I was sure if we had played for another 10 minutes we would’ve got a couple more goals. Equally, we could still be playing today and I don’t think 1860 Munich would’ve won because although they had a few chances that evening, Jim Standen did what he had to do in goal
With the football we were playing, we should have beaten them more comfortably than 2-0. I know we didn’t get the first until quite late on in the second half but it was one of those games that I knew we’d win. I just had so much confidence we would score.’ As time ran out, Hungarian referee Istvan Zsolt finally blew the final whistle to kick start the ultimate East End knees up, on and off the pitch.
I was everywhere when the final whistle blew,’ laughed Dear. ‘Running around the pitch, I can remember just looking around the stadium and seeing how mad all the West Ham fans were going. It was an incredible feeling. ‘We had eight players who came through from ground staff aged 15 to play in that final. You won’t see anything like that again. The only time any club has come close recently was Manchester United and their class of ‘92.’
For Jack Burkett, the victory represents the finest achievement by a West Ham side. ‘In my opinion, it was the best game West Ham United has ever played from a footballing point of view,’ he added. ‘The way we passed the football that day was incredible. ‘I felt we were far superior to them and it showed throughout the game. The victory and feat has never been achieved again by West Ham. I’d like to see it happen again though.’