Tonight very special memories come flooding back

SHEP graphicTurning up at a packed house at the Boleyn  for a European match under floodlights tonight will for a certain generation mean that  some of their best ever memories of watching West Ham will  come flooding back. It certainly will be for me.
Watching the Hammers beat Fulham to win the FA Cup  in 1975 was wonderful but the following season’s campaign in the now defunct European Cup winners Cup was magical.
The Hammers negotiated the first two rounds against Lahden Reipas of Finland then Arrarat Erevean then of Soviet Union now Armenia fairly comfortably but there was a special tingle in the  air about the return home legs.
This European thing had a different edge , a  different feel and it seemed to suit the West Ham way down to the ground but  by half time of the quarter final against Den Haag  in Holland all seemed lost.
Courtesy of some unbelievable refereeing decisions ( those were the days when there was a real schism between our own and continental  refs not to mention the language barrier) The Hammers  were 4-0 down.
AnderlechtIn those days such games were not shown live but I recall listening to the voice of a Radio Two commentator coming across our Roberts radio in the kitchen  …I think it was either the late Peter Jones or  late Peter Lorenzo …solemnly recalling how the  first half debacle had unfolded. They didn’t pick up the game until the second half.
I was gutted. There seemed no way back. And it all felt so far away. So distant. There were of course a significant contingent of Hammers fans out there. But we didn’t travel away then. Dad couldn’t afford it. And certainly not abroad in midweek. There was no Easy Jet or Euro star  back then.
And in  the days long before  internet  and wallpaper sports TV channels the radio and the daily papers were our eyes and ears. But at 4-0 down I felt like turning the radio off and going to bed.
I stuck with it though. And so did the team. Billy Jennings scored twice. It ended 4-2 and as a consequence of the away goals rule the dynamics of the tie changed. The momentum was with West Ham and they finished off the job with a 3-1 win, amid a fantastic atmosphere ,making it 5-5 but those two Jennings goals set up what ranks as my all time favourite game at Upton Park.
The Hammers were pitted against  Eintracht Frankfurt  in the semi final .Graham Paddon gave West Ham a shock lead in Germany with a stunning  long range left strike. But Frankfurt displayed their class to win 2-1.
So the stage was set for the second leg at the Boleyn with all the score line equations worked out in our heads.
There were parts of the pitch heavy in mud. The Germans came intent on blowing West Ham out of the water by grabbing an early away goal.
West Ham clung then as the crowd got ever louder so did The Hammers in the second half.
Trevor Brooking, in what was perhaps his finest all around game for the Irons  put them ahead with a quite brilliant corkscrew header. Then he played a superb pass forward which Keith Robson seemed to have over run only for him to retrieve and curl what in the flesh seemed like a 35 yarder. You Tube footage …and it’s a must watch…confirms it was about 22 yards. But who cares ?! Then Brooking glided through the mud to make it 3-0.
The place was absolutely rocking. The stands shook as fans jumped and swayed.
But all the time Frankfurt had been knocking at the door and there had been some stoic defending to keep them at bay. Then they scored. Another would see them through on away goals.
It was so tense so dramatic . I doubt “I’m for ever blowing bubbles” has  been sung louder, with more raw emotion, more passion than it was over periods of that stunning second half especially in the agonising final few minutes.
Eventually the final whistle blew. Drifting out of the ground  it felt as West Ham were on top of the world and the fans were the best in the world having done their bit to sing the team home.
Dad -long gone ( ill be thinking of him tonight)  and I watched the final at telly at home. It was the first time I had ever seen West Ham live on the box having been at Wembley the previous summer. So that was another treat European football had brought.
I recall the oldaamn  being very annoyed that the club had gone “ all pansy “ with what as he described the new “cowboy kit” after a commercial deal had been struck with Admiral.
On their home Heysel ground Anderlecht prevailed in a flowing match 4-2. It was deflating but as they say its not so much  the arriving at the final destination but  it’s the getting there.
And what a special European journey that  1975-76 season had been.
Those of an even older generation …not least Claret and Hugh’s very own Hugh Southon…. will cite the 1964-65 season as even better. And course in that campaign West Ham went the whole distance beating Munich 1860 2-0 in what many say was one of the best games to be played at Wembley until then and lifted the trophy.
 For many Hammers fans of that generation is ranks as their best ever game.
I’m too young to have remembered that but it was part of the folklore that made that adventure in the Seventies seem so important and special to us teenagers of that area.
Perhaps that is why it is an extraordinary sell out for this Europa League qualifier against Andorra minnows Lusitens. European football does not happen often at West Ham, but it feels part of the DNA, and when it does come along there is a special buzz at the Bolyen.
And what a way to bid farewell to the stadium in the coming season it would be then ,to have a few more of those spine-tingling  Euro nights , that for many defined West Ham’s best teams of the Sixties and Seventies.  

About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

11 comments on “Tonight very special memories come flooding back

  1. Great article,enjoyed reading it.Some real memories 😉

  2. Fantastic piece,makes me wish I was older to have the same memories lol

  3. Really good article,lets hope we will have memories like these from this european adventure.

  4. Far,far,far too long ago for me.I wasnt born till 35yrs after these matches,lol,top read though,love it 😉

  5. Enjoyable piece or writing,thanks Rob/Hugh,very interesting.

  6. Nice one,i was just a little snotty kid in 76 & can only just about remember that european campaign.Sounds like some top nights at UP back then 😉

  7. Rob, that is the first time that I have seen a copy of the ECWC final programme.
    I tried to buy one at the time but all of the programme sellers had sold out and that was at least two and a half hours before k.o.
    The two things that I remember most of the final was the cloud of dust that erupted from the Anderlect end when they scored. The ground was very sub standard even for 1975 and the standing areas were covered with cinders, hence the dust cloud caused by excited feet. The other was how friendly the Anderlect supporters were.

  8. As one of the oldies that was there and have all these great memories all I can say to younger ones,
    You will have you time,this club is now going in the right direction and with great fans like all of you we will have more great memories,
    Enjoy tonight the opposition does not mater the atmosphere will be great and our unique ground deserves this in its final year,
    Anyone know what our odds are to win the whole competition?

  9. I can feel it in my water Matte and it not my postrate or the Larger

  10. Ah, great memories. I lived in Frankfurt in those days, and saw both legs (was on a business trip to London for the home leg). What a tie! You do, however, forget to mention a cast iron hand ball penalty that Frankfurt were denied in the closing minutes of the second leg. What were you saying about referee decisions :))

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