Boys of '86 recount Newcastle thrashing

Five players tell Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams about West Ham United’s biggest-ever win over Newcastle United
Ahead of Monday’s celebration of the Boys of ’86 at the Boleyn Ground, five players tell Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams about West Ham United’s biggest-ever win over Newcastle United 30 years ago…
My earliest memory of West Ham United and Newcastle United was one of my favourite Hammers strikers, Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson.

I never knew why he was called ‘Pop’ until a year or so ago when I asked him. It hails back to his school days when he was given the nickname after the breakfast cereal Rice Krispies, whose moniker was ‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’ after the noise they made when milk was added.

Pop was a star in the 1970s but, in the 1980s, there is only West Ham versus Newcastle match worth talking about and, with the help of five men who played in the game, let’s all remember West Ham 8-1 Newcastle from 21 April 1986 – a historic game for one West Ham legend in particular.

West Ham were chasing the title, while Newcastle had just played at Chelsea and were mid-table, ahead of one of the most surreal nights the Boleyn Ground has even seen.

Alvin Martin opened the scoring with a volley past Martin Thomas. The Newcastle goalkeeper was not really fit and after seeing Neil Orr, Ray Stewart and a Glenn Roeder own-goal fly past him, failed to emerge for the second half.

Newcastle legend Peter Beardsley was playing up front that night. “I said to Willie McFaul at half-time, I'll go in goal,” Peter told me, “but he said ‘No’, as I was too little. Instead Chris Hedworth went in goal.”

Peter’s chance to don the gloves was still to come, though. When Martin’s header went in, Hedworth dislocated his shoulder after colliding with the post.

“I took the shirt straight away, It was massive on me and it was before the days of the big gloves keepers wear today” Peter said. “I only let in three goals – one from Frank McAvennie, one from Paul Goddard and then, most famously, a penalty from Alvin Martin.”

I spoke to Alvin about that spot-kick, which saw him go into the record books as the only player to score a top flight hat-trick against three different goalkeepers.

“All the crowd were shouting my name when we given the penalty, and Ray Stewart had picked the ball up,” said the centre-back. “I had to wrestle the ball from Ray. We’d been enjoying our football, knowing the game was won, and as bad as it was for Newcastle, it was a great night for us.

“Ray was our regular penalty-taker and to be fair I got a rollicking from John Lyall when we got back into the dressing room. I’d never taken a penalty before. In fact, it was the only one I ever took in my career. John was annoyed because he looked upon it as being unprofessional. We were still in with a shout for the title and his point was it could’ve gone down to goal difference. I could see where he was coming from but I scored it, thank God!”
I had to wrestle the ball from Ray. We’d been enjoying our football, knowing the game was won, and as bad as it was for Newcastle, it was a great night for us
Tony Gale was Alvin’s defensive partner that night: “My great memory was that it was in the evening, and evening games at West Ham were second to none. Everyone who played at Upton Park in an evening game will tell you how special they were.

“In the ten years I was there I can’t remember losing too many evening games at Upton Park. Perhaps we should’ve played all our games in the evening!” Tony told me with one of his trademark mischievous laughs.

“Alvin got a hat-trick and the last one was a penalty. He took it off probably one of the best penalty takers West Ham have ever had, which was a bit of a liberty but I always call that not really a goal, because it was against Peter Beardsley! It was fabulous for Alvin.”

If Galey was happy for Alvin, there was one West Ham player after the game who confessed to me he wasn’t so thrilled. The smile on Tony Cottee’s face in the dressing room didn’t tell the full story, as he explained to me. “I was absolutely gutted,” TC revealed to me, “because we’d scored eight goals and I hadn’t scored one. I thought I’d let myself down and let my team down.

“It could’ve been double figures that night. We hit the post and had several chances and I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t scored, I was delighted we won, but Frank scored one, Paul Goddard came on and scored one – it’s a striker thing I guess.”
Someone on the receiving end that night was former West Ham assistant manager and then-Newcastle right-back Neil McDonald, who I asked for his recollections.

“My abiding memory of the night was after Billy Whitehurst scored – I think it was at 6-0 down – and we all ran around as if we were winning the match!”

Now a little birdie, well Galey, told me that Macca suffered a torrid night at the hands of Alan Devonshire on that evening, something at first our former No2 tried to deny, before coming clean. “Dev gave me the run-around! Maybe that’s why he rang me up every season to try and arrange a pre-season friendly with Braintree!”

I’ll end this trip down memory lane with the lasting thoughts of that night Alvin and, first, Beardo: “I was staying with Alvin that night as we were due to meet up for the England versus Scotland game at Wembley that weekend. I remember how great the fans were, both sets. Our fans were fantastic despite the fact we were losing 8-1, and there was one moment after I stopped George Parris scoring that the West Ham fans chanted at me ‘England’s number one, England, England’s number one!”

And the last word to Alvin and the record he set nearly 30 years ago. “It was a unique experience, and I didn’t even know I’d scored against three different ‘keepers until a local reporter told me afterwards. I’ll be very surprised if it’s ever equalled.”

And yes before you ask I was there that night to see my talkSPORT colleague bag his treble, and clearly I was not alone.

“Everyone I meet tells me they were there that night,” Alvin told me, “there must have been 100,000 there that night!”

I doubt today we’ll see a repeat of April 1986 on Monday night, but there are no guarantees in football!

*A version of this interview originally appeared in the Official Programme for the visit of Newcastle United in May 2013