Geoff Hurst’s birthday heartbreak

Sir Geoff Hurst is 80 on Wednesday, a day that marks the 50th anniversary of one of West Ham’s most famous and disappointing moments in our history.

The Stoke City saga, in which Hurst figured so prominently, kicked off 50 years ago at the Pottery club’s old Victoria Ground.

Substitute goalkeeper Bobby Moore saves a penalty in the second replay

West Ham were on the brink of a Wembley final and Hurst scored that night - but when the quartet of League Cup semi-final matches came to a dramatic conclusion, Hurst had figured in the most famous penalty miss imaginable.

Our dreams of Wembley crumbling to dust. That Hurst ended up playing for Stoke soon after just added to the drama of the time.

8 December 1971, Hurst’s birthday, saw West Ham win 2-1 at Stoke in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. Hurst scored a penalty that night and Clyde Best the winner.

But the second leg, in front of 38,000 fans on 15 December, produced one of the most remarkable moments in the careers of Hurst and his England colleague Gordon Banks, at the time arguably the world’s finest goalkeeper.

West Ham were just 17 minutes from Wembley when John Ritchie headed home a 73rd-minute goal to level the tie on aggregate. Upton Park was stunned. But there was more drama in extra time when Banks fouled Harry Redknapp and conceded a penalty.

Hurst smashed the spot kick straight down the middle as he always did - but England's 1966 hero Banks threw up an arm to make an incredible save.

Banks saves Hurst's spot kick [img: Daily Mail]

Upton Park was stunned again. I can recall being at the game with my late brother and the drive home to west London was in total silence. Neither of us could bring ourselves to even talk, so upset were we both.

The first replay was at Hillsborough and we had to wait until the new year, 6 January. It was another bruising match, ending 0-0 after extra time.

The choice of venue for the second replay was controversial. The match referee at Hillsborough tossed a coin, and Stoke won. They wanted Old Trafford and we wanted Highbury. But the fact that West Ham had to go north for the first replay should have meant the second one should have been in London, or Villa Park at least.

However we all had to troop up to Manchester on 26 January regardless and that was the match that saw Bobby Moore have to go in goal after a stray boot from Terry Conroy concussed Bobby Ferguson.

Moore famously saved a Mick Bernard penalty, but could not stop the Stoke midfielder’s follow-up shot.

West Ham hit back with ten men while Ferguson was off the pitch with Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking scoring.

A dazed Ferguson returned, but could not stop Conroy’s winner - although many of us felt the Stoke player should have been sent off for his first half foul on Ferguson.

I am sure that Sir Geoff remembers it all well, certainly every time his birthday comes around each year!

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