The man who put West Ham on the European football map

Cup Winners Cup boss Ron Greenwood did more than deliver a trophy

West Ham’s 2-0 victory over 1860 Munich in the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup final was the highpoint from Ron Greenwood’s 13-year tenure as Irons boss. The future England manager led West Ham throughout the 1960s and his footballing philosophy still leaves a large shadow over Upton Park today.

His brand of passing football, developed long before ‘tiki-taka’ was fashionable, became known as the ‘West Ham way’ while he was also famous for his ability to bring young players into the first team as the Academy of Football produced its first golden generation. Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst were all given their Football League debuts by Greenwood, and they would all play a major role as the national side won their first and, so far, only World Cup.

Greenwood was born in the village of Worsthorne, just outside Burnley, Lancashire, in 1921 but his family moved to London during the 1930s Depression in a bid to find a better life. He was educated at the Wembley County School before leaving at the age of 14 to be an apprentice sign-writer. He was an apprentice at Chelsea but his career was delayed by World War Two where he served in the Royal Air Force.

After the war Greenwood played in defence for Bradford Park Avenue and Brentwood, the team he supported as a boy, before returning to Chelsea. He finished his career with a spell at Fulham and, although he never represented his county, he won a single England B cap

He retired in 1956 and went into coaching, working with Eastbourne United and Oxford University before being made assistant manager at Arsenal under George Swindin. In April 1961 he was selected by chairman Reg Pratt to replace Ted Fenton as manager of West Ham United. He led West Ham to their first FA Cup win in 1964 before winning the Cup Winners Cup the following season.

He moved upstairs in 1974, becoming the club’s general manager for the next three years, with John Lyall being placed in charge of the first team. In the first season of this arrangement, West Ham won another FA Cup. After England coach Don Revie’s resignation in 1977, Greenwood was appointed full-time manager in the same year, ending his 15-year association with West Ham. Under Greenwood, England qualified for the 1980 European Championship and then the 1982 World Cup, their first World Cup in 12 years

England came through the tournament unbeaten, but did not win enough games to progress beyond the second group stage. Greenwood resigned after the World Cup and retired from football. One major landmark during Greenwood’s tenure was the selection of the first black player for England, Viv Anderson, in 1978. Greenwood stated ‘if they’re good enough, I’ll pick them.’

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