Holding out for a hero

We've been searching for heroes for a while now, well here they are in abundance, the heroes of Alkmaar, the boys of 2023 who have given the modern generation of West Ham fans something to be proud of.

I've been depressed by the ‘we know best' rhetoric from the Moyes Out-ers, a flood within minutes of the triumph in The Netherlands and if anyone failed to read the room, it was this lot. Fuelled by the client websites who, with painful pretensions, condescension and sneering put-downs told David Moyes that he could celebrate reaching the Europa Conference League final, "We'll concede that" but he's still got to go. Who the fuck do you think you are?

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The rest of us were celebrating, from different generations from different eras. Nobody wanted a diatribe on the perceived failings of the manager. Only Ron Greenwood and John Lyall have reached a European final in West Ham's history, the last one 47 years ago - and still some of you are still trying to justify the hate for Moyes.

One site groaned on about how they hated the manager and wanted him gone the morning after we lose to Fiorentina after the final on 7 June. But they'd let him celebrate this bit of success. How big of them.

I was at Wembley in 1965 with the old fella. In 1976 I watched the Anderlecht final in our flat in Slough, newly married and my amazing wife was working nights as ward sister at the local hospital. I could hardly piss off to Brussels on a bender could I, even if we could afford it (which we couldn't).

Now, 47 years later I will be on holiday in Pembroke when the rest of the West Ham world will be in Prague - some idiot decided not to check the fixture schedule before booking the hotels. They do have wifi in Wales, don't they?

All I want is for the moaners to shut up. We have come a long way under Moyes, although you wouldn't think so if you listen to some of the slagging he gets. Not perfect, intent on a counter-attacking system so many hate, but we are where we are. That's 19 wins in 26 European games now under his control.

I'd love to see us play with the flow and brilliance of Manchester City, the structured attacking of Brighton, if not the cynical cheating of Arsenal (please don't go there, Dec). But Moyes admits he has gone back to the trusted system - otherwise we would be relegated by now after the misfiring season we have had.

He has addressed the issues, gone back to basics and here we are in a European final. A few folk out there should get a life and be grateful for our best couple of years since the Premier League was born.

So on the assumption that Moyes is not everyone's idea of a hero, let's look at our brave boys in the Netherlands (and I don't just mean Chris 'Knollsy' Knoll, or sir, to you and I). We've all seen by now the footage of this 58-year-old with a dodgy hip battering the crap out of Alkmaar's schoolboy ultra brigade. I believe Knollsy is up for Hammer of the Year; get voting, you lot.

My only observation on that, considering I was not there, is that the Alkmaar scumbags had not realised that West Ham corporate/VIP were just a touch different to what they'd expected. I'll leave it there.

Right, heroes. They've been a long time coming, but the boys of 2023 are right up there. None more so than Pablo Fornals. We all love him to bits, he always gives everything, he gets us and West Ham and the guy who was reduced to tears of frustration and joy when he finally got on to score at Bournemouth, was equally overjoyed by his rampaging solo effort that settled things in Alkmaar.

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Lucas Paqueta is not far behind. He has been stunning of late. Brazilian flair and he's adopted a lot of east London grit. He gets us too, straight in there for a ruck, and to hell with the consequences. Magical player.

And then there's the old hands; Aaron Cresswell has barely put a foot wrong since his return to the side. Tomas Soucek too, I'm sick of reading the stick he gets. He may not be the new Trevor Brooking in midfield but he works his socks off out there, fighting for every inch. If you can't see his importance to the side, I'm sorry for you.

He gets us too. We've had nothing really for 43 years, so I'm loath to tolerate the anti-Moyes lot at the moment. Give us time to enjoy what has been achieved now and leave the blood-letting for a while. Nobody really cares what you think at the moment, we have a European final on the horizon.

Even if it's in a ridiculously small stadium, just 20,000 capacity, with only 4,800 tickets each with Fiorentina. What could possibly go wrong? Who makes such daft decisions? You know you have an issue when the Met Police see fit to question UEFA about the situation.

So, I checked back to find comparable heroes who have scored influential goals in West Ham semi-finals and finals over the decades. And Fornals is in illustrious company.

First up there's the FA Cup of 1964 when Ronnie Boyce scored two in the semi-final against Manchester United and the last seconds winner in the final against Preston. Back in 1965 and the ECWC semi-final with Real Zaragoza, John Sissons scored a wonderful solo goal in the second leg to clinch a 4-3 aggregate victory. In 1976, Brooking scored the 4-3 aggregate winner against Eintracht Frankfurt. Fornals' goal in Alkmaar was not officially the winner, but we all know that when he raced clear in injury time that was the winner!

Domestically there's more, of varying quality. The 1923 FA Cup semi-final against Burnley, was a 5-2 West Ham win, so no obvious winner there. The 1966 League Cup semi-final against Cardiff was a 10-3 aggregate win, too little tension and individual scoring there.

The 1975 FA Cup semi final and final saw Alan Taylor score doubles against Arsenal and Fulham, while in the 1980 FA Cup, Frank Lampard scored that memorable winner in the semi-final replay against Everton, while Brooking was the match winner in the final against Arsenal.

A year later, Jimmy Neighbour scored a last minute winner in the League Cup semi-final against Coventry to secure a 4-3 aggregate victory. Then came the 2006 FA Cup semi final win over Middlesbrough, scored by Marlon Harewood. I'm not sure I should include play-off finals in this illustrious list, but Bobby Zamora in 2005 and Ricardo Vaz Te in 2012 can hardly be forgotten.

So here we are... a list of semi-final and final goal scoring heroes. Ronnie Boyce (twice), Alan Taylor (twice), Frank Lampard, Trevor Brooking (twice), Jimmy Neighbour, John Sissons, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood and Ricardo Vaz Ta. Now add Pablo Fornals to that list of Hammers who have written their names into West Ham folklore.

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