Chelsea 0 West Ham 5. No, much as I enjoy the occasional punt on a long shot, that is not my prediction for our fi rst game of the season — although I’m prepared to wager it’s more accurate than anything Mark Lawrenson can come up with. Rather, it is the theme of this month’s column. It has been a long time since we last won at Stamford Bridge, although had referee Bobby Madley not given Chelsea a totally unjustifi ed penalty we would have rectifi ed this highly undesirable state of aff airs last season. As it is, we have to go back 14 years for the only time we’ve won away at Chelski in the 21st century. But, as luck would have it, I have unexpectedly acquired the keys to a time machine aft er a mix-up at the garage (it’s anyone’s guess what the person who’s now driving my Citroen Picasso must be thinking)
Not only will this particular Tardis be returning to the days of Paolo Di Canio, we are about to undertake a journey that will span fi ve decades and evoke memories of West Ham legends whose very names bring a lump to the throat. Or, in the case of Julian Dicks, several lumps to other parts of an opponent’s anatomy as well. But more of him later. First stop is the magical day in September 2002 when PDC put in one those performances that leave mere mortals shaking their heads in disbelief that anyone can make football look so ridiculously simple. We went into the game with just two points from six games — the
worst start in the club’s history. Yet we dominated the opening spell of the game until Mike Dean, unlike anyone else in the ground, saw Scott Minto handle the ball and awarded Chelsea a penalty, which Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink duly dispatched. (Anything you can do Mr Madley, Mike Dean can do just as badly.) We continued to be the better side, however, and it came as no surprise when Jermain Defoe stabbed home an equaliser from close range after 39 minutes. What did come as a surprise was Di Canio’s first goal of the afternoon three minutes later. It was simply astonishing.
Sebastien Schemmel took an innocuous throw on the right. Di Canio withstood a half-hearted challenge and turned inside. After a quick glance to assess his options, he flicked up the ball with his right foot and then smashed home a stunning volley with his left. It was one of the goals you treasure all your life. Chelsea came back into the game after the break, and Gianfranco Zola equalised with a free kick that Dimitri Payet would have been proud of. But PDC was not to be denied — and with little over five minutes to go he pounced when the home side failed to deal with a long ball from David James and, from the tightest of angles, beat Carlo Cudicini at his near post.
Later in the season we saw off Chelsea at Upton Park to complete the double — and then managed to get relegated with the highest ever number of points for a team going down from the Premier League. But now is not the time to dwell on that sort of misery. Instead, we are going to fasten our seat belts and travel back to 1996 — not least because the team that went to Stamford Bridge in February of that year contained two gentlemen by the names of Slaven Bilic and Julian Dicks. It’s fair to say preparation for the game had been far from ideal — we’d been thrashed in an FA Cup tie at Grimsby three days before. And things didn’t look good when Chelsea took an early lead.The Terminator, playing a more central role than usual, had to endure a fair amount of stick from the home fans, who hadn’t forgotten a boisterous challenge that had got him sent off in the Upton Park fixture earlier in the season (some unkind observers described it as “stampingâ€). But, sensitive soul though he is, Julian refused to be put off by some ill-mannered booing and
duly thundered home an equalising header from Dani’s corner after 64 minutes. Ruud Gullit did what he could to restore Chelsea’s lead, but the game was won by a Danny Williamson shot 10 minutes later. In the post-match assessment it was generally agreed that Bilic and Dicks had been the difference between the two sides. Wonder whatever happened to them?
For our trip back to the Eighties it is tempting to hop just 10 short years and touch down one Sat – urday towards the end of March to enjoy the 4-0 thrashing handed out by the Boys of 86. Two goals from Tony Cottee, plus one each from Frank McAvennie and Alan Devonshire sealed the deal that fabulous day. But I want to go back further and focus on the 1-0 defeat we inflicted on the West London mob in Septem – ber 1980. As a game it’s hardly one that uses up vast megabytes of the memo – ry bank. It took an own goal from Ray Wilkins’ elder brother Graham to separate the sides. But the gulf in class was breathtaking — and, hard though this may be for younger supporters to believe — we were the ones with all the talent.
Who would you rather have in your side: Phil Parkes or Peter Borota? Ray Stewart or Colin Pates? Alvin Martin or Mickey Nutton? Billy Bonds or Colin Lee? Tre – vor Brooking or Dennis Rofe? Victory that day took us fourth in the old second division. By the end of the season we were champions — 13 points ahead of our nearest rivals and 26 points clear of Chelsea (remember, these were the days when you only got two points for a win). We had a goal difference of plus-50; Chelsea’s was plus-5. We had been in the second tier for three years, yet players such as Bonds, Brooking and Martin had remained loyal to the club throughout that period — preferring to win promotion in claret and blue rather than seek a transfer to a top-flight club. Men of that stature
must never be forgotten. The Seventies involves a festive trip across the capital for the Boxing Day fixture in 1973. What better Christmas present could anyone ask for than a 4-2 victory at the ground of one of your London rivals? Well, how about a 4-2 victory when you’ve started the day bottom of the table and then find yourselves 2-0 down at half time? On the pitch, the fight back was started by Frank Lampard (that’s the real Frank Lampard) four minutes after the interval when he beat Peter Bonetti at the near post. But the real turning point had come during the break when the injured Trevor Brooking, Graham Paddon, and Tommy Taylor were all patched up in the dressing room.
‘They were not really fit to continue, but they all said they’d soldier on,’ manager Ron Greenwood revealed after the game. The equaliser came from Bobby Gould — but only after Peter Osgood had hit the bar with a volley from all of eight yards out. Bobby Moore and the newly signed Mick McGiven were doing all they could to protect the 18-year-old Mervyn Day, who was having a curate’s egg of a game in goal. Then, on the hour, Clyde Best put us in front with a header at the far post after a cross from the right. Day looked better as the game went on and made three great saves to deny Osgood, before Best repeated his far-post trick with seven minutes left to ensure the victory.
Despite being bottom on Christmas Day we survived relegation quite comfortably in the end. In fact, we finished level on points with Chelsea — but a place below them in the table because they had scored one goal more. If only Clyde Best had completed his hat trick. For the last leg of this particular journey we’re going back to the Sixties. October 28, 1967, to be precise. We won 3-1, with goals from Brian Dear, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. Throughout it all, Bobby Moore strolled around Stamford Bridge like he owned the place. For me, that is still the sweetest win of them all and always will be — because it was my first West Ham game. Nothing beats that special occasion, does it? But now it’s back to the future and a new, historic, season. I hope you enjoy it. Chelsea 0 West Ham 6 wouldn’t be a bad way to start. BBM