Saturday, July 23, 2011

There were times when Fulham was bigger club than West Ham United – long gone. There were times when West Ham United was bigger club… wait! Were there such times? In London the Hammers were never more tham modest, eclipsing Fulham at best, and higher than QPR, and probably competing with Chelsea, but more or less constantly bellow Arsenal and Tottenham. Strong team in the 1960s, yet, never strong enough to win a title. What title… West Ham never finished even at third place during their best days. In fact, ‘best days’ amounted to mid-table. That was with Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst! Eventually the 1960s team aged… Martin Peters moved years ago; Hurst was just a memory; and Bobby Moore had to make room for rebuilding. The Hammers finished 13th in the 1974-75 season, with 13 wins and 13 ties. Ominous numbers… but 13 may be lucky number too. It was new brew produced by ‘the Academy’ – and if modest at the League, the team revived the old days of playing better at cup tournaments. And won the FA Cup!
Revival of tradition – for Hammers’ tradition was uneven squad: few great players and the rest – run of the mill. This squad was no different: practically only Clyde Best, quickly fading by now, remained from the 1960s stars. But there were new ones: particularly Trevor Brooking, who already established himself in the national team and was seen as the brightest English midfileder. Add Billy Bonds, ever reliable and fearsome. Add up and coming talent – Frank Lampard, Pat Holland, Keith Coleman, Bobby Gould, Mervyn Day. Just wait a year or two… waiting became permanent and this year was more or less the best performance of this team. Perhaps Frank Lampard is the best example, to sum the difference between promise and actual realization: his son became really big star, not him!
And a curiosuity: the young striker Yilmaz Orhan was a member of the squad. Born 1955 in Nicosia, Cyprus, which makes him a foreign player at time when England was not interested in imports. Well, almost an import, or barely so – most likely Orhan was a refugee: he was ethnic Turk from a city, which became Greek after the violent division of the island. Most likely Orhan grew up in London and was a naturalized British citizen. Yet, probably a victim of the traditional British bias against foreign footballers: Orhan played only 8 matches for the Hammers and in 1977 moved to NASL (Team Hawaii).
No matter – West Ham United lifted the FA Cup and hugged their former captain Bobby Moore, now a loser.