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West Ham's Forgotten 1960s Cup Final ...

League Cup Finalists 1966

by Roger Hillier

The thrills and spills of a third cup final in three consecutive years!  


The chance of qualifying for a third successive season of European football


Unexpectedly winning the final’s first leg and a Bobby Moore goal from 40 yards….

For West Ham United the golden era of the 1960s started with 1963’s US International Tournament win and was quickly followed by the well documented 1964 FA Cup and 1965 European Cup Winners Cup triumphs. But this special era did not completely end in 1965. The momentum of those mid 1960s triumphs helped carry the Hammer to a third consecutive cup final appearance in 1966.

1965-66 season was in many ways typical West Ham when they came tantalisingly close to a third cup final win!  A moderate 12th position in Division One but two fantastic cup runs culminating in a League Cup final spot and a place in the European Cup Winners Cup semi-finals. And goals galore! In their 62 league and cup games they scored 116 goals. Hammer of the Year, Geoff Hurst, leading the way with his 40 nets.  

West Ham’s 3rd Consecutive 1960s Cup Final

In all of the euphoria of the 1964 and 1965 Wembley victories, the achievement in 1965-66 of reaching a third consecutive cup final is often overlooked. This feature looks at how close the Hammers came to what would have been an amazing hat-trick of cup wins.


The season after winning the European Cup Winners Cup, West Ham reached the Football League Cup final meeting west midland opponents West Bromwich Albion.

Back in 1965-66 the Football League Cup final was a two-legged affair for the last time before it moved to a Wembley final in the following season. Despite winning the first leg at Upton Park, defeat in the second leg by a wider margin meant the League Cup slipped through the Hammers’ grasp. With a little more luck perhaps West Ham could have completed a hat-trick of cup victories in consecutive years.


In 1966 the squad which had achieved so much in the previous few seasons was by no means a spent force, but perhaps it was starting to run out of steam. The squad which carried West Ham through to the League Cup final included 12 players who had toured the USA three years earlier and 10 memebrs of the 1964 FA Cup winners.

League Cup Final 1st Leg – Upton Park March 9, 1966

The 1st leg score line shows a West Ham victory but according to match reports they were fortunate to win. The Daily Mail’s report summarised the match very succinctly with:


West Bromwich players trailed off the Upton Park pitch aggrieved and disappointed last night. Instead of holding a one-goal lead for the 2nd leg of the Football League Cup final they now have to struggle all over again.


They were robbed of a well deserved lead for March 23 by two freak West Ham goals in the last 16 minutes.  The winner 20 seconds from time was sheer robbery.


A Johnny Byrne goal seconds from the final whistle gave the Hammers a slender lead and hope to take into the 2nd leg at The Hawthorns. Albion were red hot favourites to win the League Cup and entry into the Inter Cities Fairs

West Ham United 2 – 1 West Bromwich Albion

Eventually the Hammers equalised with an incredible goal:  Bobby Moore, England’s skipper watched by team manager Alf Ramsey, took a throw in deep in the Albion half. He collected a quick return pass from Brian Dear and from 40 yards out swung in a cross high into the packed Albion goal mouth.  Albion defenders looked on open-mouthed as the ball suddenly swerved and dropped into the net off the far post.  It may have been meant as a cross rather than a shot, but who cares, it was a magnificent 40 yard goal!

Mooro’s 40 yarder

Johnny Come Lately

First Leg teams

West Ham United:

Jim Standen, Dennis Burnett, Jack Burkett, Martin Peters, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Ron Boyce, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Brian Dear


West Bromwich Albion:

Ray Potter, Robert Cram, Ray Fairfax, Doug Fraser, Danny Campbell, Graham Williams, Tony Brown, Jeff Astle, John Kaye, Graham Lovett, Clive Clark

League Cup Final 2nd Leg – The Hawthorns March 23, 1966

West Bromwich Albion 4 – 1 West Ham United

West Ham made two team changes for the away leg. Jack Burkett and Brian Dear dropped out.  Martin Peters fell back to fill Burkett’s right back spot with Eddie Bovington stepping in at left half.  John Sissons took over the right wing. Of the 13 players used in the League Cup final, all bar one had played in one or both of the 1964 and 1965 cup final winning teams.  The exception was full back Dennis Burnett, a member of the Hammers’ FA Youth Cup winning team from three years earlier.


2nd Leg Teams

West Ham United:

Jim Standen, Dennis Burnett, Martin Peters, Eddie Bovington, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Ron Boyce, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Johnny Sissons.


West Bromwich Albion: Same XI as in the first leg

Ray Potter, Robert Cram, Ray Fairfax, Doug Fraser, Danny Campbell, Graham Williams, Tony Brown, Jeff Astle, John Kaye, Graham Lovett, Clive Clark

66_03_09 WHU v. WBA FLC Final 66_03_23 WBA v. WHU FLC Final 66_03_23 WBA v. WHU FLC Final Pirate

The 2nd leg at The Hawthorns was played in front 31,000, the biggest gate in that season’s competition for both clubs.



For West Ham the evening was a disaster as they conceded four goals in the first 34 minutes and only created a handful of opportunities.

The Daily Mail explained “But West Ham’s defence flapping oddly around the anxiety ridden Ken Brown, made opposition goals always look likely.”  

9th minute:  

From an Astle header a West Ham mis-kick left Kaye with an easy

swing to score.


18th minute:

WBA took an aggregate lead when Tony Brown beat Ken Brown to

head over Jim Standen.


25th minute:

Clive Clark scored when he deflected the ball past Standen.


34th minute:

Wing half Graham Williams came storming in the attack and as the ball headed out of a melee it reached him and he leaned back and fired into the net from 30 yards.

The League Cup final 2nd leg goals slipped in as follows:

4-0 down at half time and 5-2 behind on aggregate, it looked like mission impossible. And it was, West Ham gave the aggregate score line some respectability when they eventually pierced the Albion defence with a Martin Peters effort.


A final aggregate score of 5-3 and the cup was West Brom's and on its way up the M1 to The Hawthorns.

Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer SLUG Memorabilia 66_03_23 WBA v. WHU Ticket

Any hopes the Hammers had of retaining their aggregate lead from the first leg were dashed in the 9th minute when WBA scored their first of the evening. Press reports described the game as thrilling as WBA ran out comfortable winners 4-1 on the night. WBA’s prizes were the League Cup and European football next season in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.  With this defeat West Ham’s only hope of a third season of European football lay with their forthcoming semi-final against Borussia Dortmund in the European Cup Winners Cup. Unfortunately, a few days later these hopes were dashed as the Germans convincingly beat the Hammers.

Image courtesy of Paul Ford

Route to the League Cup Final

The 10 match League Cup campaign was a roller coaster journey. Twice against Division Three opponents, Bristol Rovers and Grimsby Town, the Hammers were held to draws and needed a home replay to win.  But West Ham was invincible at Upton Park. All five of the home ties, including the Final’s 1st leg, saw claret & blue victories.


To reach the final West Ham were fortunate to meet three from Division Three (Bristol Rovers, Mansfield Town & Grimsby Town) and a couple from Division Two (Rotherham United & Cardiff City). The final’s opponents, WBA, was a very good cup side in the late 1960s and in season 1965-66 finished 6th in Division One compared with West Ham’s 12th placing. It was no disgrace to lose to the Baggies.    

Total Goals: 28 - 16

Scorers: Hurst 11, Byrne 5, Peters 3, Brabrook, Burnett, Moore 2, Bovington, Charles, Sissons

18 Players Used in Cup

A total of 18 players appeared in the cup campaign. In addition to the 13 who played in the final’s two legs, members of the shadow squad including Alan Dickie, Joe Kirkup, John Charles, Peter Bennett and Martin Britt all played a part in the earlier rounds.  

The club should be proud that of these 18 players, 13 had graduated through the club’s youth team. Ever presents were two of these graduates who four months after the League Cup final would go on to play major roles in the 1966 World Cup: Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst.


Match Report 02 Match Report 03

The Johnny Byrne goal arrived with seconds remaining when Byrne pounced on a Dennis Burnett cross and cracked the ball high into the net from five yards.


West Brom’s tactics were very much to stop West Ham and especially Geoff Hurst from scoring rather than score themselves.  An unentertaining way of blocking West Ham’s march into Europe.  In reaching the 1965-66

Match Report 04

Cup. Their team formation and successful tactics thwarted West Ham’s chances. Jeff Astle, back after a cartilage operation three months earlier had a memorable comeback when he scored the 1st leg’s opening goal after 60 minutes: “He collected a cross from clever Clive Clark and thrashed a first drive wide of Jim Standen.”

Match Report 05

League Cup final Geoff had scored a total of 11 goals including one in each of West Ham’s previous eight League Cup ties. Unfortunately, West Brom’s spoiling tactics put an end to that impressive scoring feat.

WBA match action 01 WBA match action 02 WBA match report 01 WBA Headline 01 WBA match report 02

Geoff Hurst Hits 11 League Cup Goals  

West Ham hit the net 28 times scoring in each of the 10 matches, for an average of close to three a game. Though 16 were conceded. Nine players contributed goals with Geoff Hurst topping the list with an amazing 11!

Next in the list was Johnny Byrne with five in his six League Cup appearances. Going back to Geoff – he scored in every match leading to the final, but unfortunately his goal account ran dry when it was needed most.  That’s 11 cup goals all scored in the first eight cup games!  


Add Geoff’s nine League Cup strikes in the following 1966-67 season, that makes his personal tally 20 League Cup goals in two seasons!

Geoff’s 40 Goals in 1965-66

1965-66 was an incredible season for Geoff and not only because of his World Cup final hat trick. In the season leading up to the summer 1966 World Cup success, Geoff scored 40 goals for his club!  That’s 40 goals in 59 appearances spread across Division One, the League, FA and European Cup Winners Cups. Geoff Hurst proved he was more than ready for the world stage.


Despite the high scoring no League Cup hat-tricks were recorded. Though Geoff Hurst (3), Johnny Byrne (1) and Martin Peters (1) all scored braces.

Close Calls v Division Three Sides Bristol Rovers & Grimsby Town

The Hammers started out with a 2nd round tie against Bristol Rovers who gave the Hammers a couple of scares. In both the first tie and the replay, Rovers fought back from two goals down to draw level. At Eastville Rovers came back from 3-1 down to force a replay. In the replay the Hammers led 2-0 before two goals in two minutes bought Rovers back into the tie. It took a Johnny Byrne goal nine minutes from time to swing it West Ham’s way.

Bristol Rovers 3-3 Table Table 2 65_09_21 Bristol Rovers v. WHU 65_09_29 WHU v. Bristol Rovers FLC


Eastville 21st September 1965

BRISTOL ROVERS : 2nd Round Replay

Upton Park 29th September 1965


Upton Park 29th September 1965

In the following round at home to Mansfield Town, right back Dennis Burnett scored his first senior goal.

65_10_13 WHU v. Mansfield Town FLC3 65_11_05 Rotherham United v. WHU FLC4


Millmoor 3rd November 1965

A 2-1 victory at Millmoor ended Division Two  Rotherham’s unbeaten start to the season.

Another Division Three side caused West Ham hearts to flutter. This time it was Grimsby Town who took the Hammers to a replay. In the first tie Grimsby twice took the lead before the game ended 2-2. A 30 yard centre by left back John Charles was West Ham’s first equaliser. In the Upton Park replay it took a single strike by Hurst as late as the 79th minute to clinch the tie.

GRIMSBY TOWN : 5th Round

Blundell Park 17th November 1965

65_11_17 Grimsby Town v. WHU FLC5 65_12_15 WHU v. Grimsby Town FLC 5R Grimsby (A)

GRIMSBY TOWN : 5th Round Replay

Upton Park 15th December 1965

10 Semi-Final Goals

Five days after a narrow win over Grimsby, the Hammers faced Cardiff City in the semi-final first leg under the Upton Park floodlights. A very rare Eddie Bovington header in the 6th minute set the Hammers on their way to a 5-1 victory on the night.  The best goal of the night was John Sissons 75th minute effort described as “a fierce shot after a brilliant solo run”. While Jim Standen was mentioned in dispatches with two magnificent saves.

CARDIFF CITY : Semi-Final 1st leg

Upton Park 20th December 1965

66_02_02 Cardiff City v. WHU FLC Semi 65_12_20 WHU v. Cardiff City FLC Semi 1

Ninian Park’s second leg saw another superlative five goal performance from the Hammers. The goal rout started in the first five minutes with a Geoff Hurst shot and ended with Dennis Burnett’s second goal of the cup run. Cardiff City even missed a penalty!

CARDIFF CITY : Semi-Final 2nd leg

Ninian Park 2nd February 1966

A Typical West Ham Season

Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Bovington goal

Sixth-minute success for West Ham: Bovington heads them into the lead after a delicate Hurst cross

Brabrook goal Tankard

Unfortunately, the League Cup final defeat meant it was West Bromwich Albion who qualified for 1966-67’s Inter Cities Fairs Cup. West Ham were left with memories and a losers tankard for coming so close to a unique hat trick of cup final victories.

Eddie Bovington's

Football League Cup Runners Up Tankard

Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller and Vic Lindsell

Articles BBC Sports Personality 5-A-Side : Early Years