It’s back to business for West Ham after the thrills and spills of the World Cup — and if there was ever the possibility of a match which was the complete opposite of the glamour of seeing Argentina, Brazil, France, and England, a third-round FA Cup match, likely against a team from the lower leagues, would be it.
The FA Cup might be a bit devalued in some people’s eyes, but to me, it will always remain the likeliest route to a trophy.Although in fairness, we haven’t won it since 1980, the year that I was born. So, I’ve taken a wander down memory lane to pick out some of our previous FA Cup third-round ties since the last Wembley win 42 years ago, with some to remember, and some to forget.
Wrexham 1 — 0 West Ham (1981 — second replay)
I thought it was worth mentioning an often-forgotten match — the year after our famous Wembley win. In truth this wasn’t one match, but a seemingly endless series of epics against a team also in the Second Division at the time.
The first ending 1-1 at home with a Ray Stewart penalty; the second, three days later, ending 0-0 after extra time; and then the second replay on 19 January, where we went down 1-0, again after extra time. Three hundred and thirty minutes of football, one goal scored, and the holders bowing out at the first hurdle. Redemption came in the league, though, as we romped to the Second Division title, ending three years away from the top flight.
West Ham 2 — 1 Emley (1998)
I’d forgotten about this tie, as (I suspect) have most West Ham fans. It’s just a footnote in our history because of the win, but for Emley, it was arguably the biggest match in their history, very nearly ending in embarrassment in front of our own fans.
Lampard put us ahead early on, but in the second half, from a corner, Paul David equalised — and for a long time, it looked as if we were headed to a replay. That was, until eight minutes from time, when Hartson — who had missed so many chances that the opposition fans were baying him with ‘how wide do you want the goal’ — finally put us through with a bullet header.
We’d go on to the quarter final, losing in a replay on penalties against Arsenal. Sadly, Emley’s (later Wakefield’s) story ended altogether when they were wound up in 2014, never to return.
Nottingham Forest 5 — 0 West Ham (2014)
Do we have to? Sam Allardyce’s struggling Hammers had a miserable afternoon at the City Ground, ultimately capitulating 5-0 to Forest. A goal down at half time through a penalty, Forest scored four second-half goals in 26 minutes — including a hat-trick from Jamie Paterson.
To be fair, Allardyce had fielded a weakened team, prioritising Premier League survival (achieved, despite losing five of the last six games) and the first leg of the semi-final of the League Cup against Manchester City three days later. We lost 6-0 — the very definition of the word ‘backfired’ — and an anti-Big Sam campaign was in full swing.
West Ham 2 — 2 Everton (2015 — replay)
What a game this was — a real thriller which could have gone either way in regulation time. That’s not what I remember the match for, though, as good as it was. No, I remember the epic penalty shootout — our chance to go through when they missed, but Downing produced a terrible penalty.
The shootout seemingly went on forever; then the penalties went all the way through to the goalkeepers. Robles, their keeper, hit the crossbar, and then followed the iconic image of Adrian throwing off his gloves as if to say, ‘I won’t be needing those again’ and putting us through 9-8.
A win against Bristol City followed in the fourth round, before another humiliating FA Cup defeat under Big Sam’s watch — this time 4-0 away at West Brom. At least the scorelines were getting better. Oh, wait…
West Ham 0 — 5 Manchester City (2017)
Oh, deary me. It was almost Allardyce territory again, although by now, Slaven Bilic was in the hotseat, and it was the season following that memorable last term at Upton Park. We weren’t just beaten, we rolled over and had our tummies tickled, effectively conceding four goals in 17 minutes either side of half-time.
Don’t take my word for how awful we were: Alan Shearer said, ‘The way West Ham’s heads went down is alarming for the fans and for the manager. It was embarrassing.’ It was our worst home defeat in FA Cup history. We’d go on to survive in the league, but Bilic’s tenure was already in decline, and he was replaced by — you guessed it — David Moyes in November of that year.