The Final Countdown: West Ham's penalty king Ray Stewart holds nerve to clinch Aston Villa thriller


1980 FA Cup winner Ray Stewart netted 76 penalties for the Hammers, including one dramatic, deadly decider to clinch a quarter-final win over Aston Villa…


He certainly knew how to take a spot-kick.

And Ray Stewart memorably converted his fair share of pressure cooker penalties during his dozen seasons down West Ham way.

But few were more breath-taking than the late, late winner that the ice-cool, 20-year-old blasted home against Aston Villa on 8 March 1980 to secure the Hammers place in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Just seven months earlier, aged 19, Stewart had become Britain’s most-expensive teenager, when John Lyall splashed the cash to sign him from Dundee United in a record £430,000 deal and the Scot wasted no time in showing the East End his lethal shooting boots.




“I’d scored the first of my 76 penalties during a 2-1 victory over Burnley just two weeks after making my debut,” Stewart, who made 432 appearances in the Claret and Blue, told Steve Blowers. “The West Ham fans quickly saw that I could hit a football and, after that, they were always encouraging me to hit ‘em!”

By the time that top-flight Aston Villa arrived at a boggy Boleyn Ground for that FA Cup quarter-final clash against Lyall’s lads, ‘Tonka’ (the nickname derived from the indestructible Tonka toy trucks!) had already powerfully smashed home seven spot-kicks, including one in the fourth round at Brisbane Road, where his two goals had helped the Hammers to a 3-2 win over near neighbours Orient.

“We were looking destined for a tricky replay at Villa Park after a goalless 89 minutes,” recalls the ten-times capped Scotland international. “But then Ken McNaught handled as he went up to meet a late corner and, with a crowd of 36,393 – our biggest of the season – looking on, suddenly it was all down to me!

“I was only young, but I always thrived on those pressure situations. It was a muddy, muddy pitch and I was conscious that I might slip over and put the penalty over the South Bank crossbar. At that moment, I could’ve been a saint or a sinner so, taking a careful run-up, I was just set on scoring and, although Jimmy Rimmer dived correctly to his right, my kick was too powerful for him and we were in the semi-finals.

“We’d left it late but the Hammers supporters went mad – having come down from Scotland to the East End and scoring such an important goal they’d now accepted me as an official Jockney!”


Ray Stewart scores from the penalty spot


A subsequent victory over Everton in the semi-finals gave Stewart – the second youngest member of the FA Cup-winning side behind Paul Allen – his passport to Wembley.

“Only 12 months earlier, I’d been a teenager living in Stanley, Perthshire – a village with a population of less than 1,500 - and now there were 100,000 supporters packed into the stadium,” he exclaims. “I looked around Wembley and thought: ‘It’s great to be here!’ It was a dream come true for the West Ham fans, too. 

“We may have been the underdogs when it came to facing a top side like Arsenal but I wasn’t nervous because I knew I was good at my job and I wanted to stand up and be counted alongside the rest of my team-mates. I was playing in a great defence alongside Phil Parkes, Frank Lampard, Alvin Martin and Billy Bonds and, when you looked through the entire side, we were just a fantastic team. 

“I wanted the whole of the watching world to see how good we were and I wanted them to be impressed, too,” concludes the 60-year-old who, industrious and energetic as ever, currently delivers dental supplies around Scotland. “When the other players talk about it today, they say that when John rebuilt his Cup-winning squad, ‘Tonka’ was the final piece in his jigsaw. It makes me so proud to hear them say that. It’s amazing!”


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