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Not so much of a fast moving action spectacular on the pitch, as drinks at the 007 nightclub in Blackpool on a cold January evening just hours before an important cup-tie. The subsequent skyfall from a few lagers preferred to martini cocktails left the football world more shaken than stirred.
This feature reviews what happened and the impact of Bobby Moore’s and a few teammates’ infamous visit to the 007 Club prior to a less than dazzling performance against Blackpool in 1971’s FA Cup. Despite taking place nearly 45 years ago the affair will always be remembered by West Ham fans of that era.
Since then West Ham fans have had plenty of time to reflect on the Blackpool Affair and consider how a club and England team manager would react today.
The recently released and highly acclaimed James Bond film, Spectre, is a reminder of a West Ham United link with the British Secret Service agent 007.
So What Actually Happened?
In short four players, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Brian Dear and Clyde Best, along with physiotherapist Rob Jenkins, in the evening before a FA Cup 3rd round tie visited a nightclub and had a few drinks before returning to the team’s hotel in the early hours of the morning. Less than 12 hours later all four players were in the side that lost heavily to Blackpool.
West Ham United:
Johnny Ayris (Brian Dear 56 mins)
Terrible Team Performance
But West Ham did not just lose. According to match reports West Ham’s performance was terrible. Trevor Smith of the Newham Recorder wrote:
They were awful. For the first time in my life I found myself actually longing for the final whistle to put both them and us out of our misery.
Fan Reports Players Drinking in Early Hours
On the Monday following West Ham's capitulation one disgruntled Hammers' fan who had seen the four players drinking in the nightclub, reported the incident to the club and national press. The club investigated and ended up fining the players and dropping them for the next few games. The press had a field day reporting the incident and speculating on the said players’ future with West Ham United.
Front & Back Page Newspaper Coverage
There was controversy over how the club managed the disciplinary procedure. The whole episode had sufficient ingredients to fill column inches on the front and back pages of the national newspapers for several days.
West Ham also received official enquiries from Charlton Athletic and Fulham, asking if the club would consider transferring Jimmy Greaves. Both clubs were informed he was unavailable. Inevitably there were different interpretations of what actually happened and what was said.
Watched by Bobby Moore, John Craven kicks the ball upfield at Bloomfield Road
Less than 24 hours after making this statement Manager Ron Greenwood
would be presented with the perfect excuse, should he choose to use it.
Minutes of Board Meeting
Very quickly the West Ham board of directors convened a meeting for Tuesday 5 January 1971 three days after the Bloomfield Road debacle. Those present were Mr. R.H. Pratt (Chairman), Mr. L.C. Cearns (Vice Chairman), Mr. W. Cearns, Mr. R. Brandon, Mr. B. Cearns, Team Manager and The Secretary.
"The manager reported that four of our players R. Moore, J. Greaves, C. Best and B. Dear had to be reported for a breach of discipline wherein they returned to their Hotel in Blackpool during the small hours of Saturday morning 2nd January 1971 on the day of our FA Cup tie with Blackpool. They were accompanied by our Physiotherapist R. Jenkins.
The Board discussed at length the situation after the matter was reported in detail with the manager’s comments.
Various viewpoints were put before the meeting before a final decision was made to impose a fine of one weeks wages on each of the four players and a severe reprimand was to be given to R. Jenkins and he was warned as to his future conduct.
Two board members wished it to be placed on record that they were not in agreement with a fine but felt a severe reprimand should be sufficient bearing in mind varying circumstances.
The players concerned were informed of the Board’s decision and in accordance with the League’s Regulation 39 send a copy of such notice to the Football Association and Football League.
The manager wished it recorded that he understood all points of view of the Board and he respected their respective opinions."
At the time of the incident West Ham’s league results were poor and for much of the season were fighting relegation to the old Second Division.
The season finished four months later with the Hammers in 20th position one place and seven points clear of relegation. While the January FA Cup tie was West Ham’s low point of the season, the reverse can be said for Blackpool.
Their 4-0 FA Cup victory over the Hammers gave them some respite and hope for the remaining league games. But as the season progressed the Tangerines plight was even worse than the Hammers’. The seasiders finished rock bottom in the First Division and fell through the trapdoor.
Jimmy Greaves devotes a couple of pages in his autobiography “Greavsie” to the Blackpool Affair. He accepts that the players behaved irresponsibly with a lack of professionalism and lack of concentration.
Though he explains that the players went out for a drink that cold January evening partly as there was an expectation that the match would be postponed due to the icy pitch conditions.
He thought that the club should have disciplined the players behind closed doors without reporting back to the national media and that he was “nauseated by the treatment Bobby Moore received”.
Greavsie perhaps skates over the players’ responsibilities. By drinking alcohol only hours before they were due to play an important FA Cup tie they not only let themselves and the club down, but also all West Ham supporters.
The club’s supporters pay the players’ wages and in return expect the players to perform to their best and to not behave in any way detrimental to theirs’ and the team’s performance.
For that reason many West Ham supporters will perhaps consider the club to have been justified in announcing their disciplinary actions to the press.
The Aftermath and Impact on Players’ Careers
Brian Dear never played for the West Ham first team again. After the Blackpool Affair he played another eight games for the Reserves and had two outings for the Metropolitan League side before his contract ended. It was not renewed.
Clyde Best was just 19 years old at the time. The teenager played in the league game away to Arsenal a week after Blackpool and on just two more occasions that season. These were as sub against Ipswich Town (March 20) and in the starting line-up away to Burnley, both as Jimmy Greaves replacement. However, his best seasons for the club were still to arrive.
Jimmy Greaves returned to the first team five weeks later for the away league match to Coventry City on February 9. He crowned the occasion with the game’s only goal to give West Ham their third away win of the season and hope in their fight against the drop into the Second Division.
Greaves was destined to play just another 13 league games in claret and blue, scoring three goals, before he hung up his boots.
Not surprisingly, Bobby Moore’s return to first team action was sooner than Greaves. Only months after his memorable performances for England in Mexico’s 1970 World Cup finals he was still a big influence in the team’s performance. Much of the media speculation surrounded Moore’s future with club and country.
On the back of the Blackpool furore Alf Ramsey the England team manager, dropped his captain from the squad for the European Championship Qualifier against Malta at the Empire Stadium, Gzira.
Fortunately Moore bounced back into the England fold for the next qualifier in April to win his 86th cap against Greece at Wembley Stadium. His England captaincy endured for another 22 games and his claret and blue career would last another four years.
The treatment he received at the hands of the club and the media hurt Moore but one of his strengths was not to let it affect his playing performances.
Physiotherapist Rob Jenkins continued to administer his magic-sponge with the club until he retired in 1990.
What would happen if a similar incident occurred today?
Would a similar incident happening today be handled any differently? Quite possibly not. In the last few seasons there have been a few high profile incidents involving irresponsible or law breaking behaviour by professional footballers which have attracted significant media coverage.
The end result has in several instances been the termination of playing contracts. Today, if a player breaches a club’s trust and it was picked up by the national media it is inevitable that the player’s club will issue a statement or a club representative speak to the media.
Unfortunately for all concerned in the Blackpool Affair the cocktail of a very poor team performance coupled with poor results, team moral at a low ebb and players behaving irresponsibly, it gave the media a field day.
It did back in 1971 and it certainly would in today’s fast paced social media world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
In surroundings like a prison exercise yard the punished men forgot ‘breaches of discipline’
AS GREAVES, MOORE AND BEST TRAIN FOR SATURDAY THE CHAIRMAN INSISTS: WE’LL TREAT THEM LIKE MEN, NOT BOYS...
They are still trusties says Pratt
Tony Green beats three West Ham defenders (Moore, Howe and Taylor) to shoot Blackpool's first goal
The Blackpool Affair and Subsequent Events
Blackpool 4 – 0 West Ham United
Saturday January 2, 1971
Friday January 1, 1971
Dinner in the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool
BBC camaraman suggested a drink in 007 Club.
Saturday January 2, 1971
Drinks in 007 Club
Players leave 007 Club & return to hotel
Moore, Greaves & Best in starting XI.
Dear plays as substitute
3:00pm FA Cup 3rd Blackpool 4 - 0 West Ham
Monday January 4, 1971
Bobby Moore plays for reserve side in practice game v. first team at Chadwell Heath
One disgruntled Hammers' fan reports nightclub visit to
West Ham Chairman Reg Pratt & the national press
Chairman, Reg Pratt, speaks individually to 4 players: Best, Dear, Greaves & Moore
Board of Directors meeting. Players fined a week's wage & receive letter explaining fine for breach of disciplinary rules
Tuesday January 5, 1971
Bobby Moore appears on Eamonn Andrews' This is Your Life TV programme
Wednesday January 6, 1971
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller
Saturday January 9, 1971
Div 1: Arsenal 2 - 0 West Ham. Best starts. But Moore, Greaves & Dear dropped. Billy Bonds named as captain
West Ham Reserves 0 - 1 Bournemouth & Boscombe.
Brian Dear in side
Monday January 11, 1971
Bobby Moore reports for England duty
Wednesday February 3, 1971
England team manager drops his captain from the European Championship Qualifier against Malta
Saturday January 16, 1971
Div 1: West Ham 2 - 3 Leeds United. Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves and Clyde Best are not selected to play
Brian Dear plays for reserves in 4 - 1 defeat to
Arsenal Reserves at Highbury
Friday January 22, 1971
FA Cup 4th round weekend and without a Cup or League game the Hammers arrange a friendly fixture at The Valley:
Charlton Athletic 0 - 2 West Ham. Geoff Hurst named as captain. Bobby Moore comes on as 2nd half substitute
Saturday January 23, 1971
Football Combination: West Ham Reserves 2 - 0 Swansea City Reserves.
Clyde Best, Brian Dear & Jimmy Greaves in side. Dear scores a goal
Saturday February 6, 1971
Div 1: West Ham 1 - 4 Derby County. Geoff Hurst named as captain.
Bobby Moore appears as 2nd half substitute. Clyde Best, Brian Dear & Jimmy Greaves not selected
Tuesday February 9, 1971
Div 1: Coventry City 0 - 1 West Ham. Moore & Greaves back in side. Bobby Moore is captain.
Jimmy Greaves scores game's only goal