World Cup Hammers

Continuing our regular series on whufc.com this summer, we look back at West Ham United players who have made an impact at the World Cup finals over the years. Today we feature the 1986 tournament in Mexico, when Alvin Martin and Frank McAvennie headed to South America with England and Scotland...

After finishing a record-breaking 1985-86 season with that best-ever, third-place finish, several members of the West Ham United squad had justifiable claims to be on the plane to the World Cup finals in Mexico later that summer.

But only England's Alvin Martin and Scotland's Frank McAvennie eventually made it to South America, alongside future Hammers Jimmy Quinn (Northern Ireland), Paulo Futre (Portugal) and 1996 loan signing Peter Shilton (England).

Sadly, neither the Scot nor the Scouser was destined to see too much action.

In Group E, McAvennie twice stepped from the bench in Scotland's defeats against Denmark (0-1) and West Germany (1-2) before being totally overlooked by manager Alex Ferguson in the 0-0 draw with Uruguay that ended his country's Mexico '86 challenge.

"I don't know why Fergie didn't give me more of a chance" said the blond bombshell after exploding onto the scene with 28 league and cup goals in his first season south of the border. "I didn't have a bust-up with him or anything like that.

"But he knew that I had the hump after only being substitute for the first two matches, so he left me out of the third one completely. Charlie Nicholas and myself should've been the main strikers but he picked the likes of Paul Sturrock and Steve Archibald instead.

"It didn't make sense to most people and, after the season I'd had with West Ham, I was very disappointed.

"Even though he later called me a 'maniac' in his book, I'm privileged that Fergie took me to a World Cup. It's an experience that the likes of George Best and Ryan Giggs never had."

England did, however, scrape into the second round thanks to Gary Lineker's hat-trick against Poland (3-0), following lacklustre Group F openers against both Portugal (0-1) and Morocco (0-0).

And as they found themselves in the last 16, the 17-times capped central defender was finally called into action.

"I thoroughly enjoyed playing against Paraguay," revealed Martin after seeing two-goal Lineker and room-mate Peter Beardsley seal a 3-0 victory and a quarter-final meeting with Argentina.

"The atmosphere was contagious and against tricky opponents we took the game by the scruff of the neck. Personally, I was pleased with my own performance. I knew what I wanted to do and I did it.

"Terry Butcher and myself knew that we had completed a good job. There was camaraderie between us and we felt the partnership was right. We had beaten Paraguay 3-0 and looked good doing it, too.

"Bobby Robson was pleased with us all and in the next few days I was convinced that I'd be in the team for the quarter-final. The manager had praised the back-four, in particular, and I was absolutely sure I was going to keep my place. All my interviews with the press were about how I hoped to deal with Maradona.

"The team meeting was on the night before the game and Robson opened by saying: 'The team is going to be the same.' I relaxed in my seat - but the next few words delivered from the manager's mouth shattered me. He continued: '...except for one change. I'm going to bring Terry Fenwick back for Alvin Martin.' I felt totally stunned."

Indeed, the midnight horror he had experienced when mistakenly drinking Beardsley's denture water a few days earlier, was nothing compared to the shock just delivered by the England boss!

"Speechless, I glanced around the room and a couple of the lads just looked at me and shrugged. The fact that my fellow professionals couldn't believe it made me feel worse.

"Looking back, I think Bobby Robson made a mistake dropping me, although we'll never know," insisted Alvin, who sat helplessly on the sidelines as two-goal Maradona undone England with that infamous 'hand of God' effort before settling it with a sensational solo run in a 2-1 win for eventual tournament victors, Argentina.

"The handball tended to overshadow everything else about the game but deep down we knew the South Americans were better on the day and they were worthy winners of the tournament, too."

by Steve Blowers, author of Nearly Reached The Sky - West Ham United 1989-2005, available now in the club store.