The FA Cup Years: ‘Our Golden era had finally arrived but our new dawn ended too soon’

We look at the 60s and early 70s for our next feature on our Cup exploits over 100 years

General view at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

The 1963-64 season would represent a golden period in the club’s history as promise finally translated into silverware. Bobby Moore had been made England captain and along with Johnny Byrne, Peter Brabrook and Ken Brown, West Ham had four England internationals in their regular starting line-up.

Geoff Hurst had been converted from an average wing half into an exciting striker, and the prodigious talent of Martin Peters was just beginning to blossom. The Hammers finished a disappointing 15th in the league but the fans had two great cup runs to saviour. West Ham reached the League Cup semi-finals before losing to Leicester City 6-3 on aggregate. The FA Cup campaign began with a comfortable 3-0 home win against Charlton Athletic.

East London neighbours Leyton Orient were our opponents in the fourth round. A record attendance of 34,345 at Brisbane Road saw the home side mount a spirited display. Norman Deeley put the O’s in front after only two minutes but Peter Brabrook equalised two minutes from half time. The game petered out as the tie went to a replay.

The return was effectively settled within fifteen minutes of the start. A Geoff Hurst double and a third from Johnny Byrne secured a comfortable 3-0 win. The fifth round draw saw the Hammers drawn against Swindon Town; a tricky tie against a side that included Mike Summerbee and Don Rogers. There was deadlock at 1-1 as the game entered the final fifteen minutes.

However, outside right Peter Brabrook obliged with two assists to seal a 3-1 victory. The quarter finals pitched our claret and blue heroes against top flight opposition for the first time. Burnley had won the league Championship four years earlier and included mercurial England international winger John Connelly. West Ham emerged victorious by the odd goal in five.

It set up a mouth-watering semi-final with Manchester United and the awesome power of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and an eighteen-year-old genius called George Best. With the semi-final taking place at Hillsborough, few gave the Hammers a realistic chance of winning the tie. The week before the game both sides met in the League at Upton Park. United cruised to a 2-0 win which reinforced the commonly held view.

Afterwards Mancs’ goalie David Gaskell strolled up to Bobby Moore and said: ‘You’ve got no chance against us next week!’ It was a gift to Mooro and provided all the motivation he needed. A rain-lashed Hillsborough witnessed a classic cup tie on a sodden pitch.

West Ham mastered the conditions and snatched a two goal lead in the space of seven minutes. Ronnie Boyce scored both goals with Denis Law later reducing the deficit. However, Geoff Hurst scored his sixth goal of the Cup run to seal a famous victory.

In an all second division clash Preston defeated Swansea in the other semi-final. West Ham were quickly installed as favourites but fortune often favours the underdogs. The first half belonged to Preston who led 2-1 at the interval. Doug Holden had scored early on after Jim Standen fumbled a soft shot.

Johnny Sissons then had put the Hammers back on terms, but a header from Alex Dawson had deservedly restored the lead for Preston. It lasted until the 52nd minute when Geoff Hurst’s header was deflected onto the bar and then nudged over the line by Preston goalie Alan Kelly.

Extra time looked inevitable as the dying seconds of the game ticked away. Ronnie Boyce was told by manager Ron Greenwood to sit in the middle of the park. But tired legs took him forward as a move developed on the right. A pinpoint cross from Brabrook was met by Boyce who had drifted through in acres of space. It wasn’t pretty and Preston had 23 attempts on goal against West Ham’s 16. But it was a win and the Hammers’ first major honour.

The following season was dominated by victory in the European Cup Winners Cup Final, which remains the greatest achievement in the club’s history. It meant West Ham lost their grip on the FA Cup losing to 1-0 to Chelsea in the 4th Round.

In 1965-66 the Hammers had two magnificent runs in the Cups. We reached the League Cup Final but lost on aggregate to West Bromwich Albion. In the Cup Winners Cup West Ham were defeated in the semi-final against Borussia Dortmund. Such form couldn’t be matched in the FA Cup as Blackburn inflicted a 4-1 defeat in the 4th round.

In the next four seasons West Ham progressed no further than the 5th round of the FA Cup; and in 1969 suffered the indignity of defeat against third division Mansfield Town. In January 1971 West Ham were drawn away against Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd round. Players were met by snowbound conditions and fully expected the game to be postponed.

However, an embarrassing 4-0 defeat betrayed ‘the morning after the night before’. The facts of that evening are still disputed; but wherever the truth lay it exposed a drinking culture at the club. The next two seasons brought a 5th and 4th round exit against Huddersfield and Hull respectively. The golden period had well and truly come to an end.

Martin Peters had joined Spurs and Geoff Hurst left for Stoke City. Bobby Moore’s career at West Ham was slowly drawing to a close, and fans wondered when the next golden period might begin.

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