Friday, 1 July 2011

Sam Allardyce and the West Ham Way

In the press conference that he gave on 21st June, Sam Allardyce asked the question: “When did West Ham play the West Ham way?” He then went on to say “The West Ham way is about winning football matches and the enjoyment of winning. I’m in the game to play winning football and entertain the public, and that’s what I do."

It is possible to date the beginning of the West Ham way of playing football. On 16th March 1961 the chairman of the club stated: "For some time, Mr Fenton had been working under quite a strain and it was agreed that he should go on sick leave. For the time being, we shall carry on by making certain adjustments in our internal administration." The Ilford Recorder added that: "The Upton Park club are proud of their tradition of never having sacked a manager." This was untrue as Syd King had been dismissed in 1933. Ted Fenton had also been sacked and was replaced by Ron Greenwood.

Malcolm Allison later claimed that "Ted Fenton got the sack. They were rebuilding the stand and he was pinching some bricks and paint. Putting it in the back of the car. One of the directors caught him." Ken Tucker thought he had been dismissed because he had negotiated a reduction in the price of equipment, but was only passing on a percentage of the savings to the club. However, Andy Smillie believes that Fenton was a victim of "player power".

Fenton was an old fashioned manager who had been undermined by Allison's ideas on how the game should be played. Allison had made a tremendous impact on the young players at the club. This was especially true of the 20 year old Bobby Moore, who had grown disillusioned with the tactics employed by Fenton: "He wanted us to hit long through balls from the half way line. We became the world's best hitters of long through balls to nobody from the half way line."

Charles Korr, the author of “West Ham United: The Making of a Football Club” (1986) has argued that the appointment of Greenwood was a break with the past: "When supporters think of managers it is usually in terms of the success of the club. There is little else upon which to judge them. West Ham had been different in this respect because its pre-Greenwood managers had been with the club for so long in some capacity that supporters could identify with them. The manager at West Ham was something much more than a transitory employee. Greenwood's employment changed all those perceptions. He was not 'an old boy', and he made no attempt to add affections that would give the impressions that he was part of West Ham tradition."

It is not generally known but Greenwood, who was assistant manager of Arsenal, initially rejected the post. He told one journalist that he was not interested in the job because "If they can get rid of one manager they can get rid of another." He changed his mind when he discovered that Ted Fenton was only the third manager in over 60 years. The other attraction was the quality of West Ham's young players. In fact, Greenwood's first trophy came when West Ham beat Liverpool 6-5 in the 1963 Youth Cup. The score-line reflects the success and problems of the tactics used by Greenwood.

Moore, who had played under Ron Greenwood for the England Youth team, was pleased with the appointment. He told Geoff Hurst: "I've played under Ron at England Under-23 level. Things are going to change around here, this chap is incredible on the game." Moore informed his close friend, Jeff Powell: "Ron told me one of his major reasons for coming to West Ham was that he knew he had me there to start building his team around." Greenwood rated Moore very highly: "He was exceptional on the training ground, a coach's dream. Whatever you asked him to do, he could do it. Football came easy to him. It wasn't a question of teaching him, merely a question of honing his considerable abilities... I used him at West Ham as a sweeper, which was then an unknown position. He played loose behind the defence and he thrived there."

Greenwood sold Noel Cantwell to Manchester United and made Phil Woosnam captain. He also purchased the extremely talented Johnny Byrne for £65,000. In Greenwood's first full season, West Ham United finished in 8th place. At the beginning of the 1962-63 season, Greenwood sold Woosnam to Aston Villa and made Moore captain. Greenwood argued: "I made him captain because he was such a natural leader and had everyone's respect... He was desperate to succeed and was a good captain because he didn't ask anybody to do anything he couldn't do."

Over the next couple of years Greenwood built a good team round Bobby Moore. This included Jim Standen, John Bond, Jack Burkett, Ken Brown, Eddie Bovington, Ronnie Boyce, Peter Brabrook, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and John Sissons. Greenwood explained: "When I first went to West Ham they employed inside-forwards and wing-halves, but eventually we changed our system to a flat back four to encourage Bobby to play - he was the lynchpin. We set standards because we had players capable of it.... Our full-backs would push up and get forward. In fact, they were more attacking than some present-day wingers... At the back, Bobby could read along the line and cover the whole area. Everyone was tight going forward and Bobby played loose, free, behind everyone else, and the team could go forward with the confidence Bobby was always behind them, reading anything coming through, mopping up. It was a joy to watch him play."

Despite this, West Ham again struggled in the Football League in the 1963-64 season, finishing in 14th place. However, they were much better in the FA Cup and beat Charlton Athletic (3-0), Leyton Orient (3-0), Swindon Town (3-1), Burnley (3-2) and Manchester United (3-1) to get to the final at Wembley Stadium against Preston North End. Moore later recalled: "We were playing against Preston North End, a Second Division side. We'd been magic in the semi-final against Manchester United. Wembley should have belonged to West Ham. We won and it was good to win the first major honour. Apart from that it was a wash-out. We played badly. We spluttered. We didn't fulfill anything we had promised ourselves. Most of us felt let down. We were lucky to beat Preston, and bloody lucky Preston were no better than they were."

Greenwood had won his first trophy and he was determined that it would be the first of many. As winners of the FA Cup West Ham entered the European Cup Winners' Cup. Played over two legs, victories against La Gantoise (2-1), Sparta Prague (3-2), Lausanne (6-4), Real Zaragoza (3-2) resulted in a final against TSV 1860 München at Wembley Stadium on 19th March, 1965. West Ham won 2-0 with Alan Sealey scoring both goals.

West Ham's victory made them only the second British club to win a European trophy. Bobby Moore commented: "It was probably one of the greatest nights for a celebration the East End had known since VE Night. In West Ham, Plaistow, Bow, Ilford and Barking the pubs were packed and you could not travel very far without hearing people singing the West Ham national anthem. It was a night to remember all right... Everybody seemed to think it had been one of the finest games of football they had ever seen."

Greenwood later commented: "Everything we believed in came true in that match." I was at the game and it was truly a fantastic performance. You can find out yourself just how good it was as the match against TSV 1860 München is available on DVD.

Greenwood was now considered the most exciting coach in the country and was invited to become technical adviser to the Football Association during the 1966 World Cup. His coaching methods were given a boast when three of his players, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, played vital roles in the England’s World Cup victory.

Moore, Hurst and Peters returned to West Ham expecting to have a great season. As well as the three World Cup winners, the team included several talented individuals, such as Johnny Byrne, Peter Brabrook, Ken Brown, Ronnie Boyce, Harry Redknapp and John Sissons,. They also had a reliable goalkeeper in Jim Standen. However, West Ham could only finish in 16th place and were knocked out by Swindon Town in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.

Moore thought that a major problem was that Greenwood could not communicate his ideas to most of the West Ham players: "Ron talked about the game at such a high level that sometimes he went straight over the head of the average player... Some days I believe there were only a couple of us who understood a word he was on about. He never seemed to realise that he should have been talking down to more than half the team... Ron needed to work with the best, the elite players."

Ron Greenwood accused Moore of undermining his authority. Greenwood called Moore into his office and complained: "I know you take in what I'm saying, but will you please also look as if you're listening. How else can I make the rest pay attention." Moore told a friend: "Ron asked me why I didn't go to him any more, to ask about the game. He took it as a sign that I was turning against him... Although he respected me, he didn't like me."

Moore claimed that the main reason why he did not talk to Greenwood about the players was because he did not want his team-mates to think he was being disloyal to them: "Perhaps I should have been a go-between. Perhaps it would have helped when things started to go wrong. But I looked on myself as one of thirty professionals, one of the chaps. I didn't want the people I had to play with thinking I was picking the team. Budgie (Byrne) was much closer to Ron, always in and out of his office. But he had a bubbling personality and could get away with it. Nobody would accuse Budgie of getting them dropped."

In his autobiography, Moore argued that: "When we won the two cups Ron had a good team because he had a majority of good players. We could have gone on to dominate the game for a period, the way Leeds did later." Moore complained that Greenwood did not know how to motivate players: "The lads would come in the dressing room with their heads down and he would say we would talk about it on Monday. Why wait? Tell me what I did wrong. Tell another one he can't bloody play. Tell that player he bottled it. He knew, alright. No man never saw so much in a game as Ron Greenwood. But motivation was not his strength. Some games I would love to have done it. Perhaps he wanted me to. But I didn't see it as my job. Not even as captain. It wasn't up to me to slag another player, and God knows I played with enough who weren't good enough."

In 1967 Moore did go to see Greenwood about the team. He argued that the team needed more steel in defence. Moore suggested that the club should sign Maurice Setters: "I begged Ron to sign Maurice. He was tough and could play a bit and we needed to be harder at the back." Greenwood refused claiming that he was "too much of a rebel". Instead, he bought John Cushley from Celtic. Greenwood told Moore, "A nice boy. Been to college."

Cushley was also considered to be a hard player: "Ron knew in his heart that we needed someone to do some kicking... Ron tried to close his eyes to it. In John Cushley he was buying a compromise which satisfied his conscience. A nice lad who could get stuck in... He couldn't expect everyone to be like me and win by intelligence." However, soon after joining West Ham, Greenwood told Cushley after one game: "John, I've bought you to be tough but sometimes you've got to take it easy." Cushley told Moore: "I'm playing it too hard. The manager doesn't like me."

Bobby Moore argues that the same thing happened when Greenwood bought Alan Stephenson from Crystal Palace. Moore heard Greenwood saying to Stephenson: "Alan, you can't get stuck in like that all the time. Sometimes you've got to read it, hold off, use your brain." Moore commented that "Ron was looking for perfection, but it was another centre-half spoiled."

Jeff Powell has argued that Greenwood was right to try to maintain this approach to football: "Those principles guided Greenwood through his coaching and management and won him the respect and admiration of hundreds of people deeply involved in the game. The flowing, open football which Greenwood's beliefs demanded of West Ham also earned him the gratitude of tens of thousands of football-loving spectators who relished watching his team. At times West Ham stood alone against the violence, brutality and intimidation which, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, threatened to bludgeon all the enchantment out of English football."

Geoff Hurst has conceded that some critics, including Brian Clough, "felt that a West Ham team with Hurst, Moore and Peters should have had greater success." Hurst claims that: "What few understand outside West Ham was that Greenwood cared more about football's finer values than about winning for winning's sake. He was a man of principle and he cared about the sport in a way that many would not understand in the modern game."

In 1967 Greenwood purchased Billy Bonds from Charlton Athletic. Three of the talented local young players, Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard and Brian Dear had also become regulars in the first team. However, West Ham could only finish in 12th place in the First Division and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the 4th Round against Huddersfield Town. Greenwood persevered with these youngsters and the following season they finished in 8th place.

It looked like Greenwood was building a team that might recapture the success of the mid-60s. However, the 1969-70 season was a disaster, with West Ham only narrowly escaping relegation. They also lost in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup to Middlesbrough. Moore blamed Greenwood for not bringing in the right players. Geoff Hurst was more supportive of Greenwood: "He liked young players with open minds. He challenged them to learn. I took up the challenge them to learn. I took up the challenge. So did others. It was no coincidence that Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and I were among those who flourished in the environment he created at West Ham... Some, of course, ignored the opportunities he presented. There were other talented youngsters at the club, such as Johnny Sissons, Brian Dear and Trevor Dawkins who may have made it to the very top of the profession had they applied themselves more diligently."

Another problem was that Greenwood was unaware of the drinking culture at the club. Bobby Moore, Johnny Byrne, John Cushley, John Charles, Harry Redknapp and Brian Dear were all heavy drinkers. The situation was made even worse with the arrival of Jimmy Greaves in 1970. Trevor Brooking believed that before he left the club, Byrne caused serious problems for Greenwood. "Johnny Byrne was a delightful fellow whom it was impossible to dislike... but he was very undisciplined, particularly when it came to drinking."

Bobby Moore, was one of Byrne's drinking companions. He admitted that Byrne damaged his career with his excessive alcohol consumption. However, he felt his own drinking never had an impact on his performance on the pitch. "When I first started out as a young professional I wouldn't dream of taking a drink after Thursday." This changed when Byrne arrived at the club. Moore claimed alcohol helped him unwind but admitted that some West Ham players drank too much: "Ron Greenwood said he felt we were getting a team of nice lads together. I sat and wondered who the hell had ever won anything in football with eleven nice people. But in the next room John Cushley and John Charles, two of the nice boys, were falling off their beds drunk at three in the afternoon."

The problem was that as captain, Bobby Moore was setting a terrible example to the young players at the club. Geoff Hurst pointed out: "He (Greenwood) wanted players to accept responsibility for themselves. But there are risks involved... Players let him down. Some let him down spectacularly, none more so than Bobby Moore." Harry Redknapp admitted much later about the drinking habits of the players: "Did we have some nights out or what? There's a few that I couldn't repeat." After one bad performance the players were banned from going out while in a Stoke hotel. "We used to like going out in Stoke because there were a couple of good clubs, so some of us sneaked out the window at the back of the hotel, ran across the motorway and found some cabs. We had a good time and came back about four in the morning. Climbing over a fence to sneak back in, Bobby slipped and a spike went into his leg... When we got home we had to report back in the afternoon and Bobby turned up saying he had tripped in the garden and landed on a fence. But Bobby was out for three weeks before he landed on a spike while out on the booze in Stoke."

By 1970 Martin Peters had given up of winning major honours with West Ham and was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur. As Trevor Brooking pointed out in his autobiography: "When Martin left West Ham in March 1970, the fee of £200,000, which included a valuation of £54,000 for Jimmy Greaves, was a British transfer record. Tottenham gained an international midfield player who was still in his prime whereas West Ham obtained the services of a once-great player who no longer had a zest for the game."

Despite bringing in Jimmy Greaves and Tommy Taylor from Leyton Orient the club finished in 20th place in 1970-71 season. West Ham also lost 4-0 to Blackpool in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. Bobby Moore later recalled: "We were totally outplayed... They were steamed up to have a go and West Ham were never in it. We were left once again with the feeling of utter disappointment at being beaten by a team from lower down the League. Our position in the First Division didn't mean much at the time and everything that season hinged on a good Cup run. But those results had become a regular occurrence."

On the Monday following the game, it was discovered that Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves and Brian Dear were out drinking the night before the game. Moore explained: "People will throw up their hands in horror at the thought of professional sportsman going for a drink the night before a game. But it was hardly a diabolical liberty. In fact we thought very little about it. We were in bed by one-thirty and got up about ten o'clock the next morning. That's a good night's sleep by anyone's standards.... The problem was not the drinking. It was the result."

When the story appeared in the newspapers, Moore went to see Ron Greenwood about what had happened: "I've come to apologise. We know we did wrong but it wasn't done with any ill intent. All we can do now is apologise." Greenwood replied: "You've hurt me. Let me down. I don't want to talk about it any more. It will be dealt with in due course." The punishment was a two week suspension for Moore, Greaves and Dear, plus a fine of a week's wages, in Moore's case £200.

This brought an end to the project started by Greenwood and Moore in 1961. Moore remained until leaving for Fulham half-way through the 1973-74 season. West Ham finished in 18th place and Greenwood was kicked upstairs. John Lyall took over as manager and despite winning the FA Cup in 1975, against a Fulham side led by Bobby Moore, the Hammers continued to do badly in the league for the rest of the 1970s.

There is no doubt that the Hammers experienced success playing the “West Ham Way” during the early period of Ron Greenwood’s reign. But in truth it was all over by 1965. Although his attacking policy brought plenty of goals, he never discovered a way of stopping the opposition from scoring. In the 1964-65 season West Ham scored 82 goals in 42 games. This was not far behind Manchester United, the winners of the league that year. However, the champion let in only 39 where as we suffered 71 goals against and therefore finished half-way down the table.

Geoff Hurst has suggested that: "The style of play he developed may not have been conducive to the nine-month slog of the league championship race, some of the football West Ham played in his time was the most attractive and memorable in the world. The Upton Park loyalists appreciated the way we played and, most tellingly, came back year after year because they knew they would see a good game of football. West Ham had a well-deserved reputation for high-quality attacking football and Ron was responsible for that."

Hurst maybe right about the quality of the football but is clearly wrong to suggest that it led to large attendances. During the 1964-65 season, which ended with West Ham won the FA Cup, they had an average home attendance of only 24,704. The following season, when the club won the European Cup Winners' Cup, it was only 24,826. Remember, this was a ground that at this time had a capacity of over 40,000.

A significant point is that at the beginning of both seasons the club had little difficulty in getting well over 30,000 for games. However, once it became clear that West Ham would not be challenging for league honours, the attendance figures went into rapid decline. Sam Allardyce is clearly right when he says that the fans want a winning team: “The West Ham way is about winning football matches and the enjoyment of winning. I’m in the game to play winning football and entertain the public, and that’s what I do.” He then added that to do that he needed “to instill a bit of discipline, magic and creativity." Greenwood was good at the “magic and creativity” but was a complete failure when it came to “discipline”. Let us hope that Sam Allardyce is the man who can bring all three virtues and maybe he will succeed, where Greenwood ultimately failed.

1 comment:

  1. Creat point taken. Nicely summed up the past and the present. Have to admit, we have lacked the playing identity past seasons, partly we saw it during Zolas and Pardews time, but it has been too volatile last two decades. Hope Sam brings winning mentality to club.