Paul Goddard: ‘It’s great for West Ham that this squad is making their own history.’

Paul Goddard on his time at Upton Park and why his footballing heart will always be in east London

When a player joins a new club, what he is really looking for is words of encouragement to help him settle.

But that is not exactly what striker Paul Goddard got when he moved across London from QPR to West Ham in summer 1980, becoming the Irons’ then-record signing for £800,000.

‘I was 20, I’d been married about one month and we’d just bought our first house in High Wycombe when out of the blue, this move to West Ham came along and the first thing John Lyall said to me was “you’d better be good because I’m putting every penny we got for winning the FA Cup on you”. I never did know if he was being tongue-in-cheek,’ Goddard, now aged 62, told Blowing Bubbles.

Previously, QPR had sold ‘keeper Phil Parkes to West Ham for a world record fee for a ‘keeper, and just two weeks earlier, Goddard’s strike partner — and another future Hammer – Clive Allen, to Arsenal, so the club did have a reputation for developing and selling talent, but Goddard’s move was hardly expected.

‘Tommy Docherty, the manager, had promised me a new contract, then one day said “I’ve spoken to the chairman and there is no new contract, but don’t worry, you’ve been sold”.

‘The chairman had lent me some money to buy my house and now he wanted me to pay the loan back, but the Doc said to go to him and say I wouldn’t pay it back as he’d just made £1m out of me.

Shaking in my boots

‘I remember shaking in my boots as I went into his office to say that, and it looked like he was going to stick to his guns, but then the next day not only did he write off the debt, but he also gave me a bit more, which was my introduction to the world of transfers.’

When Lyall came to the Goddards’ house to talk terms, his wife’s main concern was trying to get their Great Dane to lie on the sofa to cover up a rip in the fabric, but they need not have worried.

Lyall was keen to get his man, and Goddard did not need much persuading to team up with a man who would go on to have a huge bearing on the course of his career.

‘John was intoxicating, he oozed football and the ability to improve you, so within minutes of him starting to talk I was in,’ he said. ‘He was very much in charge at the club — I’m not sure I met the chairman before I signed, people like him were in the background, it was what John said that mattered.

‘What he said, went. I used to keep getting better contracts, because if he thought you were worth it, he would do it — that’s how much he ran things, and you got respect right from the start. He was a fantastic coach, too, but how he treated you as a person was really important.’

Winning formula

Lyall’s FA Cup winners of the previous season were laying down the foundations of one of the most successful periods in West Ham history, so for Goddard to be added to an already winning formula shows how highly Lyall regarded him — and vice versa. 

‘I was seven years with him at West Ham, then signed for him again at Ipswich for a few more years towards the end of my career, and went into coaching with him, and he was still coming up with new ideas and sessions all the time, new things that I’d never seen, even after so many years — some worked, some didn’t, but he was inspirational.’

Goddard describes the squad he joined as ‘super-talented and a very tight knit group,’ and it was as early as his second game that he found out the advantages of playing alongside his new strike partner, David Cross. 

‘We were playing Luton, and early on I got clattered by their centre half. The next the time ball came in, Crossy went early for the header and absolutely took him out. He didn’t say anything, he just stood over him as he was lying on the ground, and that got the message across — I remember thinking “he did that for me”,’ he said.

‘He was a very intelligent player and much better with his feet than people gave him credit for. He looked after me, definitely, and our partnership grew and grew.’

Goal hungry

In addition to Cross, West Ham also had Francois van der Elst who could play up front, and soon a youngster called Tony Cottee emerged.

‘Playing with Tony was a bit more like how I had been at QPR with Clive — he was always goal hungry and getting into positions to give himself the best chance. 

‘Whenever people ask me how many goals I scored, I honestly can’t tell you — I wasn’t besotted with scoring, I was just as happy creating, but players like Clive and Tony live for scoring goals. We had to reconfigure things a bit as with our height we weren’t going to score too many headers, but what we did have was great movement and sharpness.’

West Ham’s steady upwards momentum through the early 80s culminated in the 1985-86 season, but sadly for Goddard, his biggest contribution to it was his unavailability because of injury, which led to a reshuffling of options up front, and the partnership of Cottee and Frank McAvennie coming together.

‘John had planned for us to play three up front which I was looking forward to, but early on that season I dislocated my shoulder and it wasn’t put back properly,’ he said.


‘I should have been out for maybe a month or six weeks, but the medical side and rehab then wasn’t what it is now. I still have a lump on my shoulder from it, and it was the start of the worst run of injury luck I’ve ever had.

‘I got back just before Christmas then I broke a bone in my toe in the gym before I’d even played, and then when I got back from that, I twisted my ankle in a reserve game – in all my time in football it was the only year that I had like that.

‘Obviously towards the end of the season I was coming on and doing what I could, but the team were flying without me, so although it was great for the club, for me it was very frustrating.

‘When I’m not playing, I’m not a nice person. I don’t know how players put up with not playing now, maybe the money they get makes up for it. But TC and Frank were absolutely electric together, and Mark Ward had come in and done really well, so the team were on fire and I just knew I had to be patient. I don’t remember thinking I wanted to leave or anything, I was just very disappointed with the fact I wasn’t playing.’

Alan Devonshire

One of West Ham’s most important players in the 1980s was Alan Devonshire, and had he not suffered serious injury, who knows what greater heights Lyall’s team might have scaled. But for all his contribution on the pitch, off the field, there was one particular way in which the former forklift truck driver was always in need of help.

‘Phil Parkes, Kevin Keen and I lived over west of London and would take it in turns driving to training, and Dev, who only lived in Greenford, needed picking up every day as he didn’t drive — I’m not sure if he even does now,’ said Goddard. 

‘At one point he even had a sponsored car sitting in the driveway, with his name on it, that he couldn’t use. He was worried about it getting stolen, so one night he put his dog in it, to scare off car thieves, and when he went out in the morning, the dog had chewed the gearstick to bits.

‘He used to have a fry-up at the café round the corner from Chadwell Heath, then still run like the wind in training. All that was missing was a few more goals, but other than that, he was an absolute world class player, so for me to have arrived at the club as a 20-year-old and be surrounded by characters like him and Billy Bonds, and also to share all those journeys with those two, was a wonderful experience.’ 


Unfortunately for West Ham fans, the good times did not last. The following season, after finishing 3rd, they finished 15th, the Cottee/ McAvennie partnership did not fire on all cylinders either, and frustration began to get the better of Goddard.

‘I’d been in to see John a few times, saying it wasn’t going that well and that I thought I should be given a chance, and that I really needed to play, and then one day, out of the blue, he said Newcastle had made an offer.’

A trip to the North East soon convinced Goddard that it was a move he had to make, although not without experiencing a lot of emotion.

‘My wife and I both cried – we knew it was something we had to do, I had to leave West Ham, but I’m not sure if it was a cry of pain or pleasure, I just wanted to play football,’ he said.

‘That night after I’d agreed to go, John said “come in and see us tomorrow”, and there was a new three year contract that he put down in front of me. But I’d said I would go, and leaving felt like the right thing to do, because I wanted to play.’

The move, in October 1986, reunited him at St James’s Park with his former QPR team-mate Glenn Roeder, and in 2001 Goddard returned to Upton Park, as Roeder’s assistant when he became manager.

‘I’d been doing the Ipswich youth team for a while, when Glenn called and asked if I wanted to be his assistant,’ he said.


‘The opportunity to come back to West Ham was incredible. I probably didn’t realise it at the time as I was young in managerial terms, but it was a difficult time to be at the club. 

‘Glenn was a great manager — he was following Harry Redknapp, and they were very different characters but both good in their own way. Glenn didn’t blow his own trumpet, and when he did interviews he could sometimes come across as a very honest, straight man. 

‘Maybe he could have been a bit lighter, but the players bought in to what he was trying to do before fate obviously dealt him a horrible card with his illness.’

The 2002-03 season was the first one where the transfer window applied, and when first choice strikers Freddie Kanoute and Paolo di Canio both fell injured, the attacking burden fell onto young Jermain Defoe, and failure to reinforce the previous summer came back to haunt the club — as Roeder and Goddard had seen coming the previous summer.

‘I can remember Glenn sitting in with the chairman and predicting what would happen, he was adamant we needed another one or two strikers, because he knew there was going to be trouble,’ he said.

We needed more

‘Paolo was Paolo, Kanoute got injured quite a lot and all we had was otherwise was Defoe. He said we needed more but the chairman just wouldn’t do it. People like Ian Pearce played up front and tried their hardest but this is the Premier League.

‘You didn’t need a book to see what was going to happen, and it became an impossible situation, then his illness came along.’

With Roeder seriously ill, Trevor Brooking stepped into the gap, and almost managed the impossible, saving the team from relegation. But not quite.

‘Trevor would be the best manager ever, he’s made to be one. If he’d wanted to, he would have been a top manager, but he’s too intelligent to take on that responsibility,’ said Goddard. 

‘He would walk around the training pitch and watch, then afterwards take people aside for a chat,  but his detail and the way he talked to players was brilliant.’

When Alan Pardew was appointed as Roeder’s permanent successor, unsurprisingly, he brought in his own team and Goddard was on his way.  

‘Having to leave West Ham again was one of the biggest disappointments of my footballing life  – it was the only time I’ve ever been sacked,’ he said.

Good coach

‘Alan said it was nothing personal but he wanted to change things, and I’ve never been so gutted in my life.

‘I knew I was a good coach, I’d supported Glenn, Trevor and Alan well, and I knew the lads liked what we did.’

Life after West Ham has included a period working for the Football Association, travelling to compile match reports for England management, before former West Brom legend Cyrille Regis got him involved with the Stellar agency, mentoring and working with young talent, work he continues to do and enjoy to this day. 

Despite having started out in west London, east London is where Goddard’s footballing heart remains, and the love affair is definitely a two-way thing.

‘Any time I go back to see anything there, there are still people there who remember what we did, and I still get so many people talking about what we achieved in the 80s, which is wonderful,’ he said. ‘But it’s great for the club that now this squad is making their own history.’

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