The next time you sing along to a chorus of ‘My Name is Ludek Miklosko’ say a silent thank you to Lou Macari, the man who brought him to West Ham from the Czech side Banik Ostrava (which, incidentally, is nowhere near Moscow).
For supporters old enough to remember Macari’s time in charge, there is not much else to be grateful for. The odds were stacked against him from the outset, and everything he did during his short spell in charge seemed designed to alienate fans and players alike.
He had no previous association with the club – and had played for Manchester United. Rather than trying to win over the fans, however, he bluntly announced that he didn’t think much of the West Ham Way (much as Sam Allardyce was to do more than 20 years later) and that things were going to be different from here on in.
It didn’t matter how his team won, we were told. The important thing in Macari’s eyes was that they did win. His problems on the field began to pile up from the opening game of the 1989-90 season against Stoke, when Frank McAvennie sustained a broken leg as a result of a challenge by Chris Kamara in an incident that still rankles with many West Ham fans.
Off the field, he was struggling to earn the respect of his players. Having been schooled by a manager who believed that craft was more important than graft, they did not take kindly to the new gaffer’s training regime, which called for hard work and dietary restraint. His harshest critics within the team were quick to point out the inside of Macari’s Mercedes was littered with sweet wrappings and burger boxes, while the players were ordered to lay off sugar and fried food.
Macari didn’t like approve of alcohol, either. But while he may not have been a drinker he did like a bet – which was to prove his undoing.
It transpired that he had been gambling on his own side’s matches while manager of his previous club, Swindon Town. News that he had been charged by the FA emerged shortly before the Hammers were to play lowly Torquay in a thirdround cup game, which we duly lost.
The affair rumbled on for some weeks before Macari was fined £1,000 for his involvement, which was described by the authorities as ‘minor and foolhardy’’.
Despite the early exit from the FA Cup and faltering league results, West Ham had made it through to the semi-final of the League Cup, in which we were drawn against Oldham.
The first leg, played in atrocious conditions on February 14, went down in club history as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre as we shipped six goals on the drastic plastic of Boundary Park. Macari quit before the second leg.