A Good Omen?

West Ham may have made, results-wise, their worst start to a league season in 40 years, but the recovery then was swift, dramatic - and helped in no small part by a win over Manchester City!

The 1962/63 campaign, like this one, began with just one point in the first five games - with 13 goals conceded in the first three matches alone - but, following a restorative 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Upton Parkin match number six, the Hammers travelled to Manchester City on 8th September, 1962, and won 6-1.

The season was up and running and, despite a 2-1 loss at Anfield in the next game, West Ham drew at home to Blackpool before beating Blackburn - away! - 4-0.

Not only did West Ham finish a respectable 12th in the top division that season, a subsequent summer tournament performance in America in the summer has then boss Ron Greenwood drooling:

"It was the most perfect technical display I have seen from any British team I have been connected with."

The following season, of course, West Ham won the FA Cup, then the European Cup Winners' Cup the 12 months later - not to mention a small contribution to the World Cup the year after that!

Club historian John Helliar, looking back on the era, says:

"We lost away to Aston Villa 3-1, then at home to Wolves 4-1 before a home defeat by Tottenham, 6-1.

"We then drew 0-0 at Wolves before we lost at Leyton Orient 2-0.

"But we won the sixth match against Liverpool 1-0, and then got the big win at Manchester City; we finished 12th in the first division that year."

Looking back on the players involved, he remembers:

"In goal to start with we had Laurie Leslie, then Joe Kirkup, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst played in the opening match but missed the next four in the season that Ron Greenwood converted him to a striker in effect, giving him the number 10 shirt after starting with the number four - he came back in at inside left.

"There was Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Ian Crawford the winger, Ronnie Boyce played in the first match but then missed a chunk of them, because Phil Woosnam came back after injury.

"Ronnie came back in mid-November at inside right when Phil left.

"At number nine was Johnnie Byrne and at number 10 for the opening two matches it was John Dick, but then of course Geoff Hurst went to inside left.

"At number 11 until mid-November it was Malcolm Musgrove and then Tony Scott alternated between the right wing and the left wing.

"John Bond came in at number two with Jack Burkett at number three."

Whether Glenn Roeder has any summer jaunt abroad planned at the end of the season remains to be seen, but it have to be something special to top what happened in 1963.

And it confirmed that West Ham had forgotten all about that rotten start to the campaign.

"We played in the American international soccer league with teams from England, Scotland, and the continent representing cities in a league," says John.

"The tournament, in New York, comprised two leagues of seven teams, and in ours were teams from Scotland, Germany, France, Italy, West Germany, Mexico, and Brazil.

"Bobby Moore and Johnnie Byrne arrived late as they had been on the England tour of Europe, and after they arrived it helped the Hammers to top their group.

"That meant West Ham then went back in July to meet Gornik of Poland in a two-leg game in the Randalls Island stadium, which was a Baseball arena.

"The first game was played under floodlights before a 10,000 crowd and finished 1-1.

"The second game was contested on a steamy Sunday afternoon with Geoff Hurst's first half goal being his ninth of the tournament.

"There were two disallowed Gornik goals in the second half which caused tempers amongst the watching Poles to boil over.

"There was a pitch invasion which caused injury to the referee and a hold-up of around 30 minutes.

"When the match was finally completed with no further scoring Moore was voted the most valuable player of the tournament and received the Dwight D. Eisenhower trophy.

"West Ham then met Dukla Prague in another two-leg tie for the American Challenge Cup, which the Czechs had won the previous two years.

"The Dukla team comprised six of the Czech national team which had reached the 1962 World Cup final.

"The first leg was played under floodlights in Chicago and was won by Dukla, and a crowd of 15,000 - the largest of the tournament - turned up for the second leg the following Sunday afternoon at the stadium where they had played Gornik, and that ended 1-1 with a Tony Scott goal cancelling their opener."

But despite just missing out on a trophy, Ron Greenwood was delighted with the tournament, and said at the time:

"The team gained more experience in 10 matches against teams from other nations than the average player at home gains in 15 years."