Throwback Thursday: 1981: A Frantic Cup Final Day

Throwback Thursday

In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Tim, 57 and a lifelong Hammers fan and Season Ticket holder about an eventful day for many reasons in the spring of 1981.

“Spring 1981 was a revolutionary time to be a young adult, “Jealous Guy” by Roxy Music was number one in The UK Charts and one of the first Home Computers, The ZX81, had just been released.

But, more importantly for me, West Ham United were in the midst of one of the most successful periods in Hammers history, fresh off the back of defeating Arsenal in the previous year’s FA Cup Final.

However, there is one particular story from following my Claret & Blue heroes that sticks out in my mind more than others and it is the tale of me and my mate and our eventful quest to make it to Wembley.

Having tried desperately to get tickets for The FA Cup triumph of 1980, me and friend Paul Fox made a vow that if our Hammers ever got to The National Stadium again, we would obtain Tickets by any means possible.

And that is exactly what we were able to do when John Lyall’s Claret & Blue Army marched to the 1981 League Cup Final against Bob Paisley’s Liverpool to be held in March.

The day of the exciting occasion couldn’t come soon enough but things wouldn’t run quite as smoothly as I and Paul had imagined they would.

It was a mild Saturday morning, neither cold nor hot and I hadn’t slept a wink the previous night for it was the day we hoped we would see Billy Bonds lift The League Cup Trophy.

Although, there was a minor hitch, earlier that week I had discovered a Radiator leak in my Ford Capri and the Car wasn’t due to go in for repair until the next week.

I had bottles of water just in case it needed to be refilled but I just didn’t feel confident enough to rely on The Capri, as I arrived at my friend’s Flat out Bethnal Green way, we decided to take his Motor instead.

And we set off with the butterflies creeping in, we edged our way towards The North Circular until, suddenly, we ground to a halt.

It was just our luck with all the fuss over my Capri, his Car had broken down and there was no time to wait for recovery.

With our bare hands, we had to push the Vehicle down a side-road and leave it there, swiftly calling a Taxi to escort us back to his Flat, my Car it had to be, and we filled up with dozens of water bottles.

Luckily, we did manage to reach The “North Circ” this time but the task of getting from West London was far from complete as we sat gridlocked for what seemed like hours.

Time was swiftly running out, not only for us though, we were joined by Coaches of both Reds and Hammers singing their hearts out at each other from Vehicle to Vehicle, it was some sight to see.

Thankfully, we ended up arriving at Wembley with some time to spare in the end despite our ordeal, we hadn’t even had time to think properly about the game itself, Liverpool were a strong side back then with the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness in their ranks.

Sitting on wooden benches pitch-side at the famous old Ground, we were part of a sensational atmosphere, both fans raising the roof at stages.

However, on the pitch it was a cagey affair, both sides looked a little scared of each other in the early stages and neither could create many chances during the course of the 90 minutes, meaning that the tense clash went to extra-time.

The game opened-up slightly after this to the delight of over 100,000 in attendance that day, but not us as The Reds took the lead in the 118th minute.

An Alan Kennedy effort found the net while controversial Referee Clive Thomas had failed to notice Sammy Lee of Liverpool obstructing the view of popular keeper Phil Parkes.

The goal stood, and I persuaded Paul that it was time to leave, not wanting to see the Merseyside club running around with The League Cup Trophy.

As we staggered out with our heads down, among many other members of The Claret & Blue Army, we heard a shout “We’ve got a penalty”, marauds of Hammers quickly huddled to listen to it on a Car Radio.

When Ray Stewart duly converted we were jumping around in the streets for what seemed like ages, celebrating the fact that we had managed to force a Replay against The Reds.

I’m not sure Paul ever forgave me for making him leave with me and miss the goal, we were unable to taste Cup glory in The Replay at Villa Park, but I will never forget the amazing memories of that day.

I would like to dedicate this short story to Paul Fox who sadly passed away in 2016”.

About the Author

Luke Glanville
Lead Writer and Site Manager of MTJAC, Sub-Editor for the Falbros Media Group.