WE left part two of our Boleyn history with Ron Greenwood now in charge at the club, finally breaking the Hammers’ tradition of promoting from within.
Although Ted Fenton had left the club in a slightly perilous league position he had also left Greenwood with plenty of exciting young talent. FA Youth Cup runners-up in both 1957 and 1959 they would go on to win the tournament in 1963 and it was with this core of players that the new manager, only the fourth in the club’s 60 years, would bring trophies to the Boleyn Ground.
In the summer of 1961 a roof was added to the North Bank meaning that all four sides of the ground were now covered with the added advantage of keeping more noise inside thus making the ground an even more and intimidating place for visitors.
Having safely staved off 1961’s relegation threat, the Hammers further stabilised the following season moving up to a comfortable mid-table position. By now the more experienced players like Phil Woosnam and John Dick were seeing youngsters like Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, nurtured first by Fenton and now by Greenwood, establish themselves in the side.
Hurst, son of former professional Charlie who played centre-half for Bristol Rovers, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale, joined the club as an apprentice at 15. After turning professional in 1960 Hurst initially found his progress blocked by Moore – at that time they both played left-half – and for a while he considered switching his attention to cricket where he had played one game for Essex in the County Championship.
Early in the 1962-63 season Greenwood made the inspired decision to play Hurst up front, pairing him with John Byrne. Hurst quickly established himself as a striker and, after ditching cricket and spending 1963 pre-season with the club his game truly started to blossom.
Before 1963-64 got underway Moore had already spent five years in the first team and captained England as well as the Hammers whilst Peters, having made his first start in 1962, had been brought along slowly and started the season with just seven first-team appearances under his belt.
Alongside these three, other homegrown products such as Jack Burkett, Eddie Bovington, Ronnie Boyce and John Sissons were also becoming regular members of the starting XI. In fact Greenwood’s squad that season featured just four players who hadn’t started their career at the club. Three of those however – Jim Standen, Peter Brabrook and John Byrne – were to prove key to the successful run to the FA Cup in 1964.
The 1963-64 season was a disappointing one in the league with the team finishing in mid-table but they had already proved their potential for cup success when reaching the League Cup semi-final before falling to eventual winners Leicester City. In the FA Cup the Hammers started with a local derby win over Charlton. Another local clash saw Leyton Orient soundly beaten in a replay and then Swindon Town and Burnley were eliminated to set up a semi-final clash with holders Manchester United.
In that last four-clash Greenwood’s men produced some of their best form to see off star-studded United in front of 55,000 at Hillsborough. After a goalless first half, a quick double strike from Ronnie Boyce saw the Hammers on their way. Denis Law halved the deficit with just under 15 minutes left but Hurst quickly restored the two-goal cushion and the Hammers were on their way to Wembley.
Peters was a regular at the start of the season but by the time of the final against second division Preston North End he had lost his starting place to Bovington.
In the final the Hammers fell behind twice but first John Sissons (becoming the youngest cup final goalscorer) then Geoff Hurst restored parity. Then semi-final hero Boyce grabbed an injury-time winner to bring the cup to East London.
For the following campaign Gereenwood made no real changes to his squad – aside from more promotions from the junior ranks – and it was the fourth of those non-homegrown men mentioned earlier who was to play a major role in the club’s greatest night.
The 1964-65 season saw another mid-table league finish whilst the Hammers’ hold on the FA Cup came to an end with a 1-0 home loss to Chelsea. However, the European Cup Winners Cup brought more Wembley glory. Victories over Gent, Sparta Prague, Lausanne and Real Zaragoza saw Bobby Moore lead his team out at Wembley for the second successive year, this time for a final against 1860 Munich.
In front of 97,974 fans two late goals from Alan Sealey, playing on the right-wing in place of Peter Brabrook, saw Moore and his teammates ascend the famous steps to collect the trophy and bring it back to East London.
Sealey had joined the Hammers in a player-exchange deal with Leyton Orient in 1961 with Dave Dunmore moving in the opposite direction. He was married the week before the Cup Winners Cup Final so it truly was a double celebration for the Hampton-born winger.
Sealey passed away in 1996 aged 53 after suffering a heart attack. His nephew Les would play in goal for the Hammers and was the club’s goalkeeping coach when he too suffered a heart attack and died in 2001, aged just 43.
Back at the Boleyn, that summer work was carried out on the West Stand with a new ‘A’ block added at the south end along with extra terracing at the front.
The following year the Hammers made a brave attempt at defending their European crown but fell at the semi-final stage to Another German team, Borussia Dortmund who would go on to beat Liverpool in the final. They also reached the final of the League Cup, losing on aggregate to West Bromwich Albion.
Of course 1966 was also memorable for being the year England, featuring Peters, Hurst and Moore won the World Cup at Wembley giving the West Ham and England skipper a third trip up those Wembley steps in three years.
In 1968 it was time for some major work at the stadium with construction of the new East Stand. This meant replacing the old Chicken Run with a new standing enclosure, with the same capacity but newly-improved without stanchions to obstruct the view. Above this was seating for just under 3,500. The lower section was opened in November 1968 with the upper part opening two months later. A few years later the North-East corner of the North Stand was rebuilt.
Yet more improvements took place in 1970 when the floodlighting system was completely replaced and in the same year the club set their official record attendance figure for the Boleyn when a crowd of 42,322 saw the clash with Spurs. It was reported that 44,417 were at an FA Cup third round game with the same team in 1927 but due to records being lost after the WW2 bombing it isn’t possible to confirm this.
In the early 1970s testimonials were granted to Bobby Moore (against Celtic) and Geoff Hurst (against a European XI) and by the time of the Hammers’ next major trophy win they and Martin Peters, along with Ron Grennwood, had all moved on, or in the last-named’s case, upstairs to become General Manager.
New man in the hot-seat was John Lyall as the Hammers went back to promoting from within. Lyall, who was signed as a player by Ted Fenton, had his career in the pitch cut short when a serious knee injury forced him to retire aged just 23. Having worked as youth team manager he took over from Greenwood in September 1974 and eight months later was leading the team out at Wembley in the FA Cup Final. The opposition on that day were Fulham and Bobby Moore.
The West Ham team that day contained six Academy graduates including local hero Trevor Brooking who had joined the club in 1966 and who would leave in 1984 having made 528 appearances. But both the goalscoring hero and the skipper were imports.
Alan Taylor was signed by Lyall in December from Rochdale for £40,000. In his fifth game for the club, Taylor scored both goals in the Cup quarter-Final win over Arsenal. The semi-final with Ipswich finished goalless and in the replay he scored twice more as the Hammers won 2-1. Then at Wembley he struck twice again in another 2-0 victory.
That victory came as a 2nd Division club after they had been relegated in 1978 (they would return to the top flight in 1981). First up the Wembley steps to collect the Cup was Billy Bonds who, like Brooking would become another club legend.
Greenwood paid Charlton Athletic £50,000 to bring tough-tackling Bonds to the club in 1967. He would stay for 21 years, play over 650 games for the club and lift the FA Cup again in 1980 when Brooking’s goal (a rare header) gave the Hammers a 1-0 win over Arsenal. When he retired Bonds had played over 650 games and he would go on to manage the Hammers for four years in the 1990s.
The two Wembley successes saw two more Cup Winners Cup campaigns and both were memorable, for their own reasons. In 1976 the Hammers went all the way to the final and travelled to Brussels where they lost a thriller 4-2 to Anderlecht.
in the 1980-81 tournament West Ham were drawn against Spanish side Castilla. 40,000 turned up for the first leg in Madrid. That they lost 3-1 was secondary to the crowd trouble both inside and outside the stadium. UEFA put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hammers fans, fined the club and ordered that their next two European matches be played at least 300km from Upton Park.
The club appealed against the decision and the governing body relented, allowing the matches to be played at Upton Park but behind closed doors as well as reducing the sanction to one game. So the second leg was played in front of an official attendance of 262. West Ham won the ‘ghost game’ 5-1 to go through to the next round 6-4 on agrregate. They would make it to the quarter-final before being knocked out by eventual winners Dinamo Tbilisi.
Also in 1981 the terracing under the West Stand was replaced with seats reducing capacity slightly but the next major rebuilding work would take place over a decade later.
In 1985-86 Lyall led the Hammers to their highest-ever League position when a 46-goal haul from strike partners Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie fired them to 3rd place just four points behind champions Liverpool. Within three years they had nosedived and were relegated bringing to an end Lyall’s time at the club.
The board decided to go outside the club for a second time for their new manager, bringing in Lou Macari but he left after just six months, to deal with gambling allegations with the club in mid-table. This brought Billy Bonds to the club and the following season he got the team back into the top flight.
The 1990s saw a flurry of building work at the Boleyn as the stadium was updated and transformed.
In 1993 work was started on the new South Stand, renamed the Bobby Moore stand in a dedication ceremony in October 1993. The stand was completed in early 1994 and had 7,630 seats. That summer, seats were put in the East Stand, bringing the famous Chicken Run to an end.
Also in the summer of 1994, work commenced on the new North Stand. This was completed in January 1995 (the lower tier was opened in December ‘94) and had seating for just under 6,000. Originally called the Centenary Stand, it was later renamed the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
Completion of the North Stand made the stadium all-seater but the Hammers weren’t finished. A few years later the club announced that a new West Stand – the main stand – would be built. This was completed in 2001 and was by far the biggest with seating for around 15,000 spectators and two tiers as well as two levels of executive boxes. The stand, originally named the Dr. Martens Stand, also included club offices, dressing rooms and all other facilities. It also featured two large turrets bearing the club badge.
The Stand was officially opened by The Queen in 2002, although it had been in operation since 2001, and completed the renovation of the stadium. In 2009 the name reverted to the West Stand and then to the Alpari then the Betway as the name changed with new sponsors coming in.
In 2006 then-owner Eggert Magnusson floated the idea of a move to the Olympic Stadium at Stratford after the 2012 Olympics. When new owners David Gold and David Sullivan moved in talks moved along quickly and in 2011 the move was confirmed.
So, the Boleyn came to an end. Those raucous days (and nights) are at an end.
Whilet it might be hard to recreate the atmosphere of the Boleyn anywhere, moving a crowd used to those tight confines into the wide-open spaces of the Olympic Stadium was, and continues to be, a massive problem for the club. Will they ever get that atmosphere back?
Finally, here’s the official take on the ‘name issue’. West Ham United’s home ground was – officially – the Boleyn Ground. Correspondence was sent from that address. It has, for a long time, been known as Upton Park and it is in the Upton Park area of East London with Upton Park underground station nearby.
That’s the official answer but for many it will always be Upton Park – so – call it whichever one you prefer!
For Hammers fans wanting to keep up to date with what’s happening at the club, and to read some great articles past and present, the following two sites are well worth a visit: