Those were the days, my friend

Would Ron Greenwood have survived as West Ham manager in today's toxic football world and its demands for instant success?

It's a question I would not normally have given countenance to, bearing in mind the obvious implication to the question was, 'probably not'.


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Gareth Southgate can get England to a semi-final, a final and now the last 16 of this World Cup and still gets hammered. David Moyes? Yeah, OK, let's leave it there.

An interesting and lengthy conversation in social media with a group of fans made me think about any suggestion that Greenwood, my boyhood hero - a manager who shaped my football beliefs - could ever be doubted.

Greenwood, for me, was West Ham's greatest ever manager, fundamentally changing the whole ideology of the club from top to bottom for the good. He gave us style, charisma, the beautiful game, high standards and wonderful entertainment. And some lows, I accept.

He joined us in 1961 from Arsenal where he had been assistant to George Swindon whilst also coaching England's Under 23s.

We hadn't won a thing in our history, bar the 1940 FA War Cup. But in five years we had won the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup plus providing three players that helped England win the World Cup, something Gareth Southgate's current squad are struggling to replicate. We'll wait.

There was little league success under Greenwood, a sixth place finish in 1972/73 was the best. Many felt his footballing beliefs were not cut out for the brutal, sometimes cruel world at the top of professional football. Which, I suppose, was at the heart of the conversations I've had with fans on the subject of whether he would survive for very long now, or to build something of substance.

Greenwood stayed until 1977, ending as general manager having handed over in 1974 to his more realistic, pragmatic protégé John Lyall, who won the FA Cup twice, reached a European final, got relegated, but regained our top flight place and achieved the club's best-ever league finish of third in 1986.

As England manager after the departure of the disgraced Don Revie, Greenwood guided his country to the World Cup finals in 1982. A very safe pair of hands for the FA, who chose him over Brian Clough.

You do wonder whether the West Ham board ever had doubts in the less successful seasons, or whether they accepted the moral high ground of Greenwood's ideology and the status as great entertainers that came with it.

You also wonder if Greenwood replicated the two seasons that David Moyes has achieved - 6th, 7th and a European semi-final - would he be under the same pressure for his job that our current manager faces?


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My view is that Greenwood would survive now. Players are quicker and fitter, but are they any more talented than Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters? I think not.

This debate neatly coincided with a recent book on the great man I've just finished. "Ron Greenwood, a biography of football's forgotten manager" (Pitch, by Mike Miles). It's a thought-provoking read and I do not agree with some of Mike's views.

But he's a long standing fan of my vintage and is more than entitled to his views, all of which are well argued. It's a book certainly worth reading, and the first - I believe - on Greenwood since his own autobiography, Yours Sincerely, which was published back in 1984 and ghost written superbly by the great Bryon Butler.

But considering this book and the chats on Greenwood I've had encouraged me to delve back down memory lane to evaluate his contribution to the club and to discover if there was ever such a thing, in reality, as the West Ham way. A label, I believe that has been corrupted over the years by far too much PR spin.

And I've hit upon probably the high point of Greenwood's league era, an astonishing run of results 56 years ago this month. If ever there was a West Ham way, that was it.

Just consider for a moment a spell between 5 November 1966 and 27 December that same year. 11 matches in 43 days, 42 goals scored, nine wins and a place in the League Cup semi-finals secured. That cup run ended rather embarrassingly with a 4-0 hammering at West Brom a few weeks later, which I intend to gloss over for obvious reasons.

We were kings, weren't we? England and West Ham were champions of the world, Geoff Hurst was a Wembley final hat-trick hero, Bobby Moore was voted the tournament's best player and was BBC Sports Personality of the Year, a big deal in those days.

A few months earlier West Ham had defended their European title to the semi-finals before losing 5-2 on aggregate to a great Borussia Dortmund side. Lothar Emmerich's 86th and 87th minute goals at Upton Park destroyed us if I remember correctly, as we clung onto a Martin Peters lead. West Ham had finished 12th in Division One, as you would expect.

But what was to follow was spectacular in the extreme. A run of games and victories none of us who witnessed them will ever forget.


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I was at journalist training college in Harlow. I had my first car (borrowed from mum) and spent those months bombing round London, watching West Ham while trying (badly) to learn shorthand. The 1960s were in full swing and for a teenager, everything was rock n'roll - including the football.

Four games in a fortnight started (5 November), with a 6-1 win over Fulham. Hurst hit four. Then a magnificent 7-0 thrashing of Leeds, with Hurst and John Sissons scoring hat-tricks. Next a 4-3 win at Spurs - Hurst netted again - and finally a 3-0 win over Newcastle; yes, Sir Geoff again. He'd scored nine in a fortnight, can you imagine Sky handling that? Imagine if it was Harry Kane!

A 2-1 defeat at Leeds followed, Hurst netting again and then a 3-0 league win at West Brom and a 3-1 League Cup QF success at Blackpool (Hurst with two more). Then there was a 4-2 defeat at Burnley - yes, you've guessed it, two more for Geoff, and it was still only 10 December.

Then came an amazing 5-5 draw with Chelsea. Hurst had an off day, we were inspired by a Sissons double and a masterclass from Johnny Byrne. We were 5-3 up with ten minutes to go before Bobby Tambling scored twice. So typical, West Ham.

But there was more. Two wins in two days over Blackpool at Christmas, 4-1 and 4-0. Geoff scored in each. By the end of that spell Hurst had scored 16 in 11 matches, Sissons from the left wing had seven, along with Peters. We'd conceded 20 by the way, making a total 62 goals to watch in an incredible spell.

That final win at Blackpool had Moore, Hurst and Peters on the scoresheet together. I believe it was the only time that happened. It was an amazing end to a fabulous few weeks for the club, never in a million years to be replicated. Can you imagine us, anyone, doing something like that these days?

For context, this current West Ham team have just completed 13 games in 44 days before the World Cup started and scored 18 goals, seven in Europe.

So that was Ron Greenwood's West Ham way, if you like. You'd feel he was delighted with the outcome, it was the way he felt football should be played. Never to be forgotten. Yes, I do think he'd survive now and on the attack, you can be sure.

Ron never really won over the England fans, but reached two finals and didn't lose a game in Spain '82. He suffered by taking Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan - both injured - to the 1982 World Cup Finals. They figured only in the final group match.

While Three Lions boss, Greenwood made Viv Anderson the first black England player. He'd also brought Clyde Best to Upton Park. Those decisions were big deals in those days, Greenwood though was principled and forward thinking. We have so much to thank him for.

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