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Johnny Lyall's Greatest Hits


Filed: Thursday, 20th April 2006
By: Graeme Howlett


Former Hammers boss John Lyall sadly passed away earlier this week - but not before leaving supporters of West Ham United with many fantastic memories. Join us as we take a look at (arguably) the ten best Hammers games under Lyall ...

10. West Ham United 2 Fulham 0
FA Cup Final, 3rd May 1975

John Lyall had been in the job less than a year when he led the Hammers to their second FA Cup success against then-Second Division outfit Fulham. Being FA Cup Final favourites in the '70s used to be more of a curse than a blessing but Lyall's boys held their nerve to win 2-0 through a brace from Alan Taylor. An aging Bobby Moore - a former team-mate and friend of Lyall's who left West Ham shortly before he replaced Ron Greenwood - was on the losing side.

9. West Ham United 8 Newcastle United 1
Division One, 21st April 1986

Mid-table Newcastle were on the wrong end of West Ham's biggest win in 18 years when they were thumped by Lyall's boys as the 85/86 season reached it's climax. Alvin Martin's hat-trick was unique then as it probably always will be for his three goals being scored against three different goalkeepers (Thomas, Hedworth and Beardsley). Newcastle defender Glenn Roeder - later to follow Lyall as manager of the Hammers - hardly helped his side's cause by putting one (the fourth) into his own net. West Ham were to lose just one more game this season - the runner-up decider against Everton in the final game.

8. Tottenham 0 West Ham United 4
Division One, 2nd September 1981

aka Spurs 0 Crossie 4. The big striker, whom John Lyall had signed four years earlier in a then-club record 180k deal from West Brom played the game of his life as he destroyed the supposedly-superior Spurs defence in newly-promoted West Ham's first away game of the season. Although he had scored four goals just six months earlier in a 5-1 win over Grimsby this performance was far more eye-catching, being as it was against the-then mighty Spurs and their World Cup-winning Argentinians Villa and Ardiles.

7. Arsenal 0 West Ham United 1
FA Cup Third Round Replay, 11th January 1989

When top (Arsenal) faced bottom (West Ham) in an FA Cup Third Round Replay it seemed like a formality for the North Londoners - even more so as Arsenal had recovered from being 2-0 down at half-time to eke out a 2-2 draw at The Boleyn Ground in the first match three days earlier. But canny Lyall was to outwit the Arse (again) - as was Leroy Rosenior, whose 77th minute header was enough to earn the Hammers a shock 1-0 win. In a Cup run that defied awful League form, the Hammers went on to reach the quarter-finals before losing 3-1 to Norwich in a replay.

6. Chelsea 0 West Ham United 4
Division One, 29th March 1986

Twenty years ago Chelsea were far from the force that Roman Abramovich's money has turned them into today, yet when they hosted the Hammers in this Easter fixture the Blues were still in the hunt for the title (something which was to elude them for another 19 years). West Ham's own challenge had stuttered with three defeats in their previous five games which made this result even more extraordinary. Three goals in 13 devastating second half minutes (Cottee 55 and 64 mins, McAvennie 68) sent the Blues crashing to a 4-0 defeat after Alan Devonshire had given the Hammers a 1-0 half-time lead. In typical fashion, Lyall's side were to lose 2-1 at home to Chelsea in the return fixture a fortnight later.

5. West Ham United 4 Liverpool 1
Littlewoods Cup Fourth Round, 30th November 1988

Still he is hated by many Hammers fans but on this night Paul Ince was the toast of the East End after he scored twice to help condemn reigning League Champions Liverpool to their heaviest defeat in over 40 years on a magical night underneath the Boleyn Ground floodlights. Steve Staunton's own goal put the Hammers three-up before Tony Gale rubbed salt into Scouse wounds by adding a fourth 14 minutes from time. Liverpool took their revenge seven months later when a 5-1 win at Anfield cost West Ham their First Division status - and Lyall, his job.

4. West Ham United 3 Den Haag 1
European Cup Winners Cup Quarter-Final Second Leg, 17th March 1976

Dutch masters Den Haag had won the first leg 4-2 thanks partly to two extremely dodgy penalty decisions. Indeed, it could have been even worse for the Hammers - who had found themselves 4-0 down at the break - but for two second-half consolation goals from Billy Jennings which gave them an outside change of turning over Den Haag's advantage in the second leg. John Lyall - who had briefly returned the managerial reigns to Ron Greenwood for the first leg due to a bout of flu - returned to master an outstanding win in the return fixture; the Hammers were three up by half-time through goals from Alan Taylor, Frank Lampard and Billy Bonds before Schoenmaker's 59th minute reply left 30,000 Hammers sweating for the final half-hour. But the match finished 3-1, the fixture 4-4 on aggregate and the Hammers progressed to the Semi-Final on the away goals rule.

3. West Ham 3 Eintracht Frankfurt 1
European Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final Second Leg, 14th April 1976

In front of a heaving rain-swept Boleyn crowd (officially recorded as 39,202 but almost certainly of thousands more) Lyall's team - minus leading scorer Alan Taylor who was out with a knee injury - managed to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat to progress to the Final. Mervyn Day was mainly responsible for ensuring the two sides went into the break at 0-0 before the Hammers took control in the second-half, scoring three times through Brooking (2) and Robson before Frankfurt - who, until this fixture had won every game they had played in the CWC that season - pulled one back with just three minutes to go through Beverungen. However the Hammers clung on for the final few minutes to reach the Final amidst emotional scenes.

2. West Ham United 1 Liverpool 1
League Cup Final, 14th March 1981

West Ham were well on the way to becoming Second Division Champions when they met a world-class Liverpool side in the 1981 League Cup Final. 10 days previously Lyall's men had been thumped 4-1 at home by another world-class outfit - Dynamo Tbilisi - in what is still considered by many to be the finest performance by a visiting team to The Boleyn Ground. But this was to be a far different affair, as Lyall again tinkered with his formation to nullify the threat from the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Terry McDermott. The 90 minutes were far from a feast of football and it took until the 117th minute before the game exploded into action. Despite Sammy Lee lying in an offside position (this of course being in the days when offside actually meant offside) Alan Kennedy's strike was allowed to stand by referee Clive Thomas (himself no stranger to controversy following his antics in the World Cup three years previously), much to the fury of West Ham - and the surprise of Thomas' linesman (aka referee's assistant) who had called the offside. Undeterred however the Hammers pressed forward and with practically the last kick of the game secured a penalty after the aforementioned McDermott handled Alvin Martin's header on the line to stop a certain goal. Ray Stewart thumped home the spot kick to send the Hammers fans present doolally, and West Ham into a replay at Villa Park a fortnight later (which Liverpool won 2-1 after the Hammers had taken an early lead through Paul Goddard). The normally-placid Lyall, who remonstrated angrily with Thomas as the teams left the field was later reported to the FA by the referee.

1. West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0
FA Cup Final, 10th May 1980

Arsenal had reached the final after a marathon four-match semi-final tie against Liverpool, whilst the Hammers had required just the one replay to despatch of Everton (thanks to Frank Lampard's 118th minute stooping header). Now almost universally-recognised as West Ham's finest ever performance, the 1980 FA Cup Final was a triumph of tactical innovation on Lyall's part. Faced by a team a division higher (that had also reached the European Cup Winners Cup Final in which they were to play - and also lose - four days after the FA Cup Final) Lyall knew he had to pull out all the stops to even entertain the idea of beating Arsenal in a game that was billed as the Cockney Cup Final. His masterstroke was to pull Stuart Pearson back into a five man midfield (something that is common-place these days), leaving David Cross as a lone target man. In a match that was in truth far from a delight for the purist, West Ham took the lead though Trevor Brooking's 13th minute header before defending stoutly to prevent the favourites from taking the game into extra-time. Paul Allen was the star of the show; the then 17-year-old became the youngest player ever to grace a Cup Final (a record which was disgracefully stolen by a Millwall youth player three years ago), almost scored a goal before being denied by the cheating Willie Young - and cried as he accepted his winners medal. Wembley resounded to a chorus of 'Lyall, Lyall, Lyall' that day; the manager's lasting grin told of a job well done.

Honourable mentions go to:

1st October 1980 - West Ham 5 (Pike, Cross 3, Goddard) Castilla 1: West Ham had been beaten 3-1 in the first leg of this First Round CWC tie and forced to replay the return leg behind closed doors due to crowd trouble in Spain (where one Hammers fan was tragically killed). The game - played in front of an estimated 400 people - finished 3-1 in normal time before two extra-time strikes from David Cross sent the Hammers into the next round.

10th February 1981 - West Ham 2 (Goddard, Neighbour) Coventry 0: The Hammers had lost the first leg of this League Cup semi-final 3-2 despite having led 2-0 at one stage. But in the second leg - refereed by chief-villian-to-be Keith Hackett, and which Lyall described as containing 'some of the best football I've ever seen from a West Ham team' - second-half goals from Paul Goddard and an 87th minute strike from Jimmy Neighbour was enough to see them through to the final. Billy Bonds starred in what was his 600th appearance for the club.

2nd May 1988 - West Ham United 4 (Rosenior 2, Hilton, Cottee) Chelsea 1: West Ham's Bank Holiday win in the final home game of the season was enough to preserve their First Division status; Chelsea were eventually relegated after losing a play-off against Middlesbrough.

9th March 1986 - Manchester United 0 West Ham 2 (Pike, Stewart): The first leg of this fifth round tie had ended in a 1-1 draw. Geoff Pike had given the Hammers the lead before Ray Stewart converted a (dubious) textbook penalty. Man Utd were later denied a stone-wall penalty, and it was probably the last time a visiting team got the rub of the green at Old Trafford.

11th October 1986: West Ham 5 (McAvennie, Stewart 2, Cottee 2) Chelsea 3: Chelsea led 3-2 before three goals in the final 11 minutes gave the Hammers an unlikely win and bragging rights until the following March when a much-improved Chelsea won the return fixture 1-0.

Thanks to the members of KUMB for their input into this article.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.





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