The Inside Story Of West Ham's 1980 FA Cup Winning Season

The Hammers travel to Old Trafford today in the FA Cup, 32 years after this incredible story of a team who beat Arsenal by playing football like Hurricane Higgins played snooker...
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The Hammers travel to Old Trafford today in the FA Cup, 32 years after this incredible story of a team who beat Arsenal by playing football like Hurricane Higgins played snooker...
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How did West Ham reach the 1980 FA Cup Final? There’s a song about that. It goes: “I’m dreaming of a Frank Lampard/Just like the one at Elland Road/When the ball came over and Frank fell over and scored the f*cking winning goal!”

The first semi-final at Villa Park has ended in a 1-1 draw with Stuart Pearson equalising Brian Kidd’s penalty. In the replay at Elland Road it’s goalless after 90 minutes. Alan Devonshire puts the Hammers ahead after a brilliant solo dribble. Bob Latchford levels the scores after 113 minutes, scoring with a glancing header and leaping on to the fencing to celebrate with the Everton fans. With just two minutes to go, Brooking swings over a cross, David Cross nods on and there in the box is left back Frank Lampard, diving full length to score the unlikeliest of winners. His celebration goes into West Ham folklore as the left back runs dementedly round the corner flag in an early version of pole dancing for bearded blokes.

When West Ham are drawn away to West Brom in the third round of the cup I’m returning in my friend Will’s car after watching the Irons lose 3-0 at Shrewsbury. “That’s us out then,” we agree. But Phil Parkes plays one of the best games of his life to earn a draw and West Ham win the replay at Upton Park. In the next game the Hammers win 3-2 at neighbours Orient, with Billy Bonds playing with a bandage around his head to protect a gash caused by Alvin Martin’s boot, then beat Swansea 2-0 at home. A tense quarter-final against Aston Villa is decided by an inexplicable handball from Villa’s Ken McNaught in the last minute and a coolly taken penalty from Ray Stewart. Then Frank falls over in the semi-final replay and West Ham are at Wembley.

Cup Final day arrives with Billy Bonds cleared to play after a FA hearing ruled that he need only serve a one-match suspension for being sent off against Birmingham. Maggie Thatcher is Prime Minister, The Empire Strikes Back is the top-grossing film in the UK and Tom Baker is still starring in Doctor Who. Dexys Midnight Runners are number one with Geno, having managed to fend off the Cockney Rejects’ heroically aggressive version of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, which reaches number 35. The Rejects appear on Top of the Pops after the final on May 22 performing in West Ham shirts. The B-side to Bubbles, West Side Boys, isn’t quite in the traditional Cup Final singsong tradition, with lyrics of: “Doctor Martens and iron bars! Smash the coaches and do ’em in their cars!”

With just two minutes to go, Brooking swings over a cross, David Cross nods on and there in the box is left back Frank Lampard, diving full length to score the unlikeliest of winners

Wembley’s match day programme features a full-page picture of The Duchess and Duke of Kent on page three. The advertising profile for a football fan appears to be based on John Thaw and Denis Waterman’s characters of Regan and Carter in The Sweeney. It has an advert for Player’s No 6 on the back cover, and inside adverts for Embassy No 1, Littlewoods Pools, Zetters Treble Chance, Skol lager (“when you know lager you’re a Skolar”), Victor aftershave, Power soccer boots and Kevin Keegan’s new column in the Sunday Mirror. We find an early attempt at merchandising as Wembley advertises branded keyrings, wristbands, sweaters, executive jotters and programme binders.

In the pen-pics of the teams there’s a full-page picture of “The ‘Wall’ the Hammers built”, a close-up shot of Stuart Pearson, Pat Holland, Paul Allen and Alan Devonshire holding their meat and two veg as they prepare to face a free kick.

The Final is on a day of hot sunshine. It’s the second FA Cup Final that I’ve attended in five years, but not without some difficulty. My final exams at the University of Lancaster are set to begin the following Tuesday. But football is more important than 2:1 degrees and I make my way to London in an Arsenal-supporting fellow student’s car, and all without a ticket but with the rest of my term’s grant in my pocket. A fan with his son outside the stadium takes pity on me and says he’ll try to sneak his son under the turnstile and give me his ticket. This illicit trick works beautifully and he only charges me a fiver for a £3.50 ticket. Then it’s up to the terraces and the beautiful sunlight on green turf. Wem-ber-ley!

The Irons fans are at the “lucky end” above the tunnel. Eighties fashions on view include claret and blue rugby shirts, Admiral replica West Ham shirts with that ‘V’ shaped band on the chest, white West Ham scarves with claret and blue banding, and claret and white peaked caps. Plus some retro moustaches and beards from Hammers fans untouched by the spirit of punk. There won’t be any repeat of the pitch invasion of 1975 though as ugly wire fences surround the pitch.

The Final is on a day of hot sunshine. It’s the second FA Cup Final that I’ve attended in five years, but not without some difficulty

For the first time at a West Ham final, we see fans waving club flags that have been commercially made and sold on Wembley Way. But there are still plenty of home made banners too, reading: “Hitchcock’s Dead but Psycho Plays On”, “Get your camera off our banner”, “Trevor Brooking Sells More Dummies than Mothercare”, and the more poetic, “The Greatest Players in the Land are Captain Billy and his Band. That’s Frank the Lamp, Alan Dev, Paul and Stewart and Tricky Trev.”

The supporters have particular fun with the names Alan Devonshire and Pat Rice of Arsenal. Variations on these themes include: “Devonshire is the cream, Rice is the pudding”, “Billy Bonds eats Rice”, and “Devonshire is a Delight”.

The advertising hoardings have the perennial Rizla ads, plus names like Talbot, Hotpoint, Mornflake Oats and DAF Trucks. Other adverts betray the eighties obsession with sound and vision: Pye Radio, Bush Colour TV, Hitachi, Philips, and Sharp almost have me reaching for my graphic equalizer, while several ads such as National Girobank and “Join the Union TGWU” help convey the spirit of the Thatcher years.

The Combined Bands of the Guards Division are still providing the pre-match entertainment followed by an “FA Super Skills demonstration” and Abide With Me.

“Devonshire is the cream, Rice is the pudding”

The BBC’s Bob Wilson is on the pitch doing pre-match interviews before a raucous Hammers end. When he interviews Liam Brady there’s a very audible chorus of “Who the f**king hell are you?” The West Ham players are wearing brown suits. Paul Allen is set to be the youngest player ever to appear in an FA Cup Final at the age of 17 years and 256 days. He tells Bob Wilson in his squeaky cockney accent that, “It’s magic to see all the supporters an’ that, I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it… it’s brilliant.” He’s had a telegram from Howard Kendall from Preston’s 1964 side wishing him luck and congratulating him on breaking his record. David Cross mentions all the solid pros he’s known like John Wile who have never played in a Wembley final. Stuart Pearson wears shades and says his neck injury is fine now. Trevor Brooking is assured and urbane, asking Bob how he is and then saying that he thinks this is a stronger Hammers line-up than in 1975. He sounds like a pundit already.

West Ham fans reading the Daily Express have already been incensed by comments from Brian Clough. He’s said, not that unreasonably, that it is a disgrace West Ham are concentrating on the cup when they’ve finished seventh in division two and should have put all their efforts into winning promotion. Old Big Head then comments: “Trevor Brooking floats like a butterfly… and stings like one. I have never had a high opinion of him as a player. He has been lucky enough to become a member of teams he shouldn’t really have had a sniff at. I believe his lack of application and other players like him has meant relegation for West Ham in the past and the failure to win promotion this time.”

It’s a cheap jibe from Clough and as Brooking later said, it’s odd coming from someone who once tried to buy him. Brooking refuses to comment on the day, but inside is quietly determined to prove Clough wrong. Seven years later, Clough saw Brooking in the tunnel at a Crystal Palace versus Nottingham Forest cup-tie and said to him: “Young man, a few years ago I said something before an FA Cup final which I shouldn't have done. I'm sorry and I apologise.”

Meanwhile Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin are also riled by a Friday night TV preview they’ve watched in the team hotel in which Alan Mullery claims that the West Ham duo don’t compare to Willie Young and David O’Leary.

When he interviews Liam Brady there’s a very audible chorus of “Who the f**king hell are you?”

John Lyall leads his men on to the pitch in a brown lounge jacket and black slacks, looking like a dapper car salesman from the Eastern Avenue. The West Ham players wear claret and blue tracksuit tops. The players look fairly relaxed and even young Paul Allen, just 17 years and 256 days old, appears relatively calm. Terry Neill’s Arsenal are in their yellow away kit with blue flared collars.

Bizarrely referee George Courtney and his linesmen have huge flapping white collars on the black referees shirts. The Duchess of Kent looks regal in a purple twin-set and hat as she is introduced to the teams, while the rival fans sing Bubbles and “There’s only one Liam Brady!”

On the BBC commentary John Motson gives us some amateur sociology about West Ham providing hope for the deprived tower blocks of the East End.

Not too much happens in the early minutes, though it’s evident John Lyall has made tactical changes to the Hammers’ side. Start Pearson is playing wide on the left and Geoff Pike and Paul Allen are wide on the right, leaving David Cross all alone up front. It might not be traditional West Ham free-flowing attacking football, but it leaves the Arsenal defence overmanned and helps the Irons smother the influential Liam Brady in midfield.

The players look fairly relaxed and even young Paul Allen, just 17 years and 256 days old, appears relatively calm

A chorus of “We all follow the West Ham over land and sea!” echoes around the stadium while the Gooners resort to “Good old Arsenal we’re proud to say your name!” a song written by Jimmy Hill, which says everything you need to know.

An early optimistic sign is a good run and cross from Pearson on the left that allows Pike to get in a snap-shot well-saved by Pat Jennings. After 13 minutes comes the game’s pivotal moment. Brooking finds Pearson, who plays the ball across the face of the Arsenal defence to Devonshire on the left. Devo takes on Rice and leaves the Arsenal man floundering, sending over a lofted cross that Jennings can only parry. The ball falls to Cross, who shoots against a defender’s legs and then Pearson who miscues, firing it across the goal and Trevor Brooking shows great reflexes to divert the ball over the line with a stooping header.

My memory is of the West Ham end going mental, but no one knowing who scored until Trev’s name went up on Wembley’s giant scoreboard. Brian Moore didn’t know either on ITV, as he initially credited the goal to Pearson. “Trevor Brooking the idol of the East End gives West Ham the lead,” summarises John Motson.

John Lyall sits on the bench smoking a fag, something gaffers can’t do nowadays. It really is a bench too, the sort you might find in a school assembly hall, with Lyall next to tracksuited Rob Jenkins and Terry Neill and Don Howe squashed up at the other end.

My memory is of the West Ham end going mental, but no one knowing who scored until Trev’s name went up on Wembley’s giant scoreboard

“One-nil! One-Nil!” chant the West Ham fans to the tune of Amazing Grace, followed by “We’re on the march with Lyall’s army! We’ve all going to Wem-ber-ley! And we’ll really shake ’em up when we won the FA Cup! ’Cos West Ham is the greatest football team!” The Gooners respond with “You only sing when you’re winning!”

West Ham hardly look like a second division side. What’s intriguing is how easily they contain Arsenal in for most of the game, played at a slow pace under a hot sun. Alvin Martin and Billy Bonds are both making vital interceptions at the back, while Trevor Brooking has a brilliant game, tackling back in defence and always available to set up an attack with a feint or a body swerve that sends an Arsenal man the wrong way before spraying a pass out wide. Young Paul Allen is shadowing Brady well and even Alan Devonshire is tackling hard in midfield.

Arsenal appear to be suffering from fatigue in their 67th match of the season, though there’s little excuse for their poor delivery. Willie Young balloons a cross straight at Phil Parkes and then a corner is played straight into Parkes’ hands. The big keeper is so confident that he appears to be playing the match while wearing a pair of driving gloves, the sort of thing he might use for motoring through Hornchurch on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s not until half an hour has gone that Arsenal create a decent chance, Graham Rix having an effort saved by Parkes. The West Ham fans produce a loud version of: “He’s only a poor little Gunner/His face is all tattered and torn/he made me feel sick/so I hit him with a brick/and now he don’t sing anymore!” Fandom has come a long way since the rattles, jackets, ties and sportsmanship of the 1964 Cup Final.

John Lyall sits on the bench smoking a fag, something gaffers can’t do nowadays

There’s a worrying couple of minutes when Devonshire goes down and Paul Brush warms up, but the wiry midfielder carries on. John Motson shows off his inside knowledge to TV viewers by revealing that Devonshire is one of those players who wears padding on his ankles in addition to shinpads.

Brooking gets back to expertly tackle Willie Young on the break and after 40 minutes you know things are going well as Billy Bonds rolls his socks down and plays on without shinpads. Anybody that hard must surely intimidate the Gunners. And West Ham nearly score again on the break. Brooking plays a one-two with Pike, whose cross is nodded back by Pearson towards Devonshire. The midfielder’s volley is blocked by a perfect intervention from Talbot.

“Brady is a w*nker!” comes the riposte from the Irons fans after the Irishman takes issue with a Billy Bonds foul. The half-time whistle blows and the lads head down the tunnel accompanied by flag-waving cries of “Lyall… Lyall…” followed by, “and now you’re gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the cup!”

Arsenal begin the second half in more determined fashion. After 52 minutes Graham Rix cuts inside Ray Stewart to send a vicious curling shot towards West Ham goal, but Parkes reacts quickly to get down and tip it away for a corner. Alvin Martin clashes heads with Willie Young while preventing an Arsenal chance. Billy Bonds still finds the energy to race down the left wing and win a corner.

Billy Bonds rolls his socks down and plays on without shinpads. Anybody that hard must surely intimidate the Gunners

Arsenal have another good chance when West Ham concede a free-kick on the edge of the box. Parkes does well to hold on to Brian Talbot’s low shot. But West Ham are still looking dangerous on the counter attack, with Brooking always an outlet. It’s a measure of young Paul Allen’s confidence that he tries to chip the experienced Pat Jennings.

One nice thing about watching the BBC recording of the final again is to hear Jimmy Hill making a fool of himself with 20 minutes to go. Alvin Martin has had a great game but Arsenal have dominated the second half he says, and “in the end a goal will be inevitable.”

The West Ham fans are starting to find some belief, and singing Bubbles, You’ll Never Walk Alone and We Shall Not Be Moved. It’s a bit like Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactics against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974. Arsenal, still to play in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final five days later, have punched themselves out.

“He’s only a poor little Gunner…” wafts from the tunnel end. Ray Stewart makes a couple of good challenges and wins a vital header. Liam Brady makes a great run from the half way line but is tackled on the edge of the box by Brooking, stinging like a bee. Brian Clough’s ill-chosen words inspire Trev, in his 500th West Ham appearance, to give one of his greatest performances.

It’s a bit like Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactics against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974

Billy Bonds is getting fitter as the games goes on and makes another surging run down the left wing. His cross results in Pat Jennings making a good block from Ray Stewart, only for the move to be ruled offside.

With three minutes to go the West Ham fans are frantically whistling. Then comes the moment when the Irons will surely get the second to seal the game. Brooking plays a one-two with Devonshire gets the return and plays the ball inside to Paul Allen. The youngster cuts inside an Arsenal defender and has a clear run on goal. He looks certain to score in front of the West Ham legions, until Willie Young hacks him down from behind with a lunge that would be a straight red card today. “Oh what a pity!” says Motty on the BBC commentary, “a cynical foul and fully deserving of the yellow card it got.”

Ray Stewart’s free-kick is deflected off the wall and Arsenal and Young escape punishment. But at least some time has been used up. West Ham even have time to set up another elegant passing movement culminating in a wide cross from Pearson. The ball is with a tired-looking Graham Rix in midfield, he hoofs the ball towards the West Ham box… and the whistle blows!

An exhausted David Cross collapses on the ground with his head in his hands. Paul Allen has his head buried in the turf too. John Lyall hugs Rob Jenkins on the bench. Trevor Brooking gives Paul a fatherly hug. Squad players Bobby Ferguson, Jimmy Neighbour and Pat Holland are on the pitch too, John Lyall has a lovely smile and embraces his senior men, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking and Frank Lampard. Youths in claret and blue rugby shirts punch the air and a myriad flags sway up and down at the tunnel end.

With three minutes to go the West Ham fans are frantically whistling

And now the players are going up the steps to the royal box. Billy Bonds’ hair is ruffled by numerous hands. He's followed by Frank Lampard, Ray Stewart and Geoff Pike in a white West Ham scarf. He gives the Duchess of Kent a bone-crushing handshake and lifts the cup above his head to a thunderous roar. The players all shake the hands of Mr Len Cearns the chairman who is next to the Duchess. And then comes Paul Allen, blubbing like a kid who’s had his Chopper nicked. This was ten years before Gazza made crying at football fashionable.

On ITV Brian Moore comes over all paternal: “Paul Allen is crying his eyes out, his chairman looks concerned, to think that when West Ham won the Cup in 1975 he was in the second year at comprehensive school. There he is a day and moment he’ll never forget and he needn’t worry about the tears today.” When you see that emotional bond that day between Allen and club it’s sad reflecting how a few years later he was allowed to join Tottenham.

On the lap of honour a jogging Paul Allen and Geoff Pike are wearing claret and white caps and holding the Cup aloft, while Ray Stewart has the lid. The players stop for a team photo, with Alan Devonshire holding a West Ham teddy bear and the lid of the cup on Phil Parkes’ head. “One team in London! There’s only one team in London!” chant the Hammers fans, adding to Arsenal’s misery.

John Lyall slips away from the celebrations and stands in front of the tunnel. The cameras linger on him for half a minute just looking at the joy of the fans, thinking about the hope he’s given to decent, ordinary people. My late mother, watching at home, remarked what a nice man Lyall seemed to be. This was a time when football teams and their communities were much closer. And that moment gazing at the crowd is a perfect epitaph for Lyall.

He gives the Duchess of Kent a bone-crushing handshake and lifts the cup above his head to a thunderous roar

In the dressing room the normally teetotal Trevor Brooking is so carried away that he has a sip of champagne. David Cross asks if anyone has seen his legs, referring to his exhausting running. The players return to their banquet at the Grosvenor House hotel, some later celebrating at Quaglino’s restaurant though they don’t celebrate quite as hard as some of the staff. Billy Bonds told the BBC: “Do I remember much about the celebrations? No, not really, apart from that I had to put our coach Ernie Gregory and physio Rob Jenkins to bed early because they had both drunk too much out of the Cup.” John Lyall recalled the usually sober Gregory singing songs from the Boer War that he’d learned in the army, all merged with Bubbles. Brooking moves on to a meal with friends, where a Sunderland fan sent over champagne unsuccessfully hoping that Trevor would over celebrate before the Hammers’ game at Roker Park.

My own celebrations take me to the Boleyn pub near the West Ham ground. Every car on Green Street is sounding their horn and inside the pub an Arsenal scarf is lit with a cigarette lighter and ceremonially burned in the centre of the front bar, a gesture that might not pass health and safety checks today.

On the Sunday the players take an open top bus from Stratford Broadway to East Ham town hall. It’s less an open-top bus and more a CIS Insurance-branded coach with the sun-roof open, but somehow the players poke their torsos through. Some 200,000 Hammers fans line the route. Jugs of beer are being sent from the pubs and passed up to the players. David Cross wields a giant hammer and Geoff Pike is wearing a Hammers bobble hat and David Cross in a claret and blue cap. Trevor Brooking remembers, “people had come out from hospitals so you could see various patients and babies being held up and crying their eyes out.”

In Just Like My Dreams, John Lyall recalled the owner of a dodgy massage parlour leaning out of an upstairs window, standing alongside two scantily-clad masseurs, and shouting “Tell the boys John any time they want to come along – and it won’t cost them a penny!”

“Do I remember much about the celebrations? No, not really, apart from that I had to put our coach Ernie Gregory and physio Rob Jenkins to bed early because they had both drunk too much out of the Cup.”

Club photographer Steve Bacon’s photos capture the mayhem outside the Boleyn pub with its Ind Coope branding and fans leaning out of the upstairs windows.

The BBC footage at East Ham town hall shows Mayoress Marjorie Helps forgetting decorum and hugging Phil Parkes and John Lyall. The fan with claret and blur hair captured by the cameras emailed the BBC 30 years later. “I had that done at a hairdressers in St Albans on the Friday morning and the local press came to take pics. It took 6 months to wash/grow out… Happy days!”

On East Ham town hall balcony Paul Allen is the first player to emerge, wearing a knotted claret and blue scarf around his neck. Ray Stewart is in a scarf and cap, a fresh-faced Alvin Martin next to him. “There’s only one Trevor Brooking!” chant the delirious fans as Trev holds the cup while wearing a jacket and tie, unlike the open-collared colleagues.

Even the Monday Guardian devotes a news feature to West Ham’s homecoming in the East End. On the sports pages there’s a picture of Brooking, Bonds and Martin embracing and David Lacey cites this trio as the reason for West Ham’s victory.

The fan with claret and blur hair captured by the cameras emailed the BBC 30 years later

“How Brain And Heart Beat Destiny” is the headline in Monday’s Daily Mirror, with Frank McGhee writing that “If Brooking was the brains of the team Bonds was the heart and few men who have ever treasured Cup winners’ medals are entitled to wear them with more pride than the one which now adorns Billy’s big chest.”

That day’s Mirror also has an article by Alf Garnett from the sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, penned by creator Johnny Speight, lambasting Brian Clough’s “norf an sarf” and throwing in some racist terms in the name of humour that would never get into a paper today.

On the back page a column by John Lyall says that the team won the final in a similar fashion to the way Hurricane Higgins played snooker, with a sense of adventure: “There’s an adage I’ll always go along with: ‘To be successful you have to take chances.’ The soccer fans wants to be excited by men like Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire… I’m just delighted for those wonderful fans of ours. We gave them the opportunity for a typical East London knees-up.”

It’s been a typically eccentric West Ham triumph. In league terms the season has been a failure. Anyone watching the final would wonder why West Ham were not a top side in the Premier League. Three days after the final West Ham play the final fixture of the division two season, away at Sunderland. They lose 2-0, a result that guarantees Sunderland promotion and ensures that West Ham finish seventh, six points off the top three. The Irons have lost twice to Shrewsbury, 3-0 away and 3-1 at home.

The soccer fans wants to be excited by men like Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire… I’m just delighted for those wonderful fans of ours

After reaching the final they immediately lost home games to Birmingham and Shrewsbury yet are now the FA Cup holders. Today John Lyall might have been sacked for such underachievement, and Brooking, Devonshire, Bonds and Martin would surely have left for top-class football rather than play another season in division two. Yet in 1980, all those players stay and the board’s patience is rewarded. Buoyed by that FA Cup win West Ham go on to win the Division Two championship and reach the League Cup Final the following season, as well as playing in the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Logic and West Ham have never been easy bedfellows. Would an earlier promotion be traded for that epic win at Wembley? Not by most fans. Arsenal have been humbled and proof has been provided that Trevor Brooking can both float and sting. There is indeed only one team in London.

This is an extract from Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals which you can buy by following this link.