Sunday 14 Nov
Updated Sunday 14 Nov 09:00
On this day

My West Ham Scrapbook - Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor with the FA Cup trophy

 

Former West Ham United and Burnley striker Alan Taylor netted 36 goals in 124 Hammers appearances, including his decisive double-barrelled blast that fired the Club to FA Cup glory in 1975.

As Taylor celebrates 68th birthday on Saturday, he tells Steve Blowers about his favourite moments in a Hammers shirt...

 

HIGHBURY HERO

Saturday 8 March 1975 at Highbury was where it all started. Back in mid-November, I’d signed for West Ham United from Rochdale in a £40,000 deal on my 21st birthday.

I’d made a couple of substitute appearances before damaging my medial ligaments on my first start up at Stoke City at Christmas but on the eve of the FA Cup quarter-final at Arsenal, John Lyall told me that I was starting the following afternoon. I went to bed thinking: ‘Get hold of the ball, run at defenders and have some shots.’

On the coach to Highbury, Bobby Gould was disappointed that he wouldn’t be starting against his former club but he really settled my nerves.

 

Alan Taylor celebrates scoring against Arsenal

 

In my last home game for Rochdale, the crowd had totalled 1,116 but now I found myself out there in front of 56,742 fans and, looking around at the likes of Brooking, Bonds, Ball, Kidd, Radford and Armstrong, it was amazing just to be on the same muddy pitch as those great players.

Everything was there for me to try and make my mark. There were puddles everywhere but within the opening quarter-hour, I’d tapped home Graham Paddon’s cross before Mervyn Day made some truly outstanding saves and, early in the second half, I scored again with a low 15-yarder that gave us a 2-0 win.

I went back to Norfolk to see my future wife – Jeanette – and awoke to find my name splashed all over the Sunday newspapers, while the press then descended on her parents’ village. Welcome to the big time! 

 

PLOUGHING PAST THE TRACTOR BOYS

Having beaten Arsenal in the Highbury mud, we now faced Ipswich Town on Villa Park’s rock-hard pitch in an FA Cup semi-final, where the stakes were high.

Both sides played out a boring 0-0 draw but that did, at least, give us another opportunity four days later at Stamford Bridge, where we were now met with a snow blizzard.

On a freezing night the atmosphere under the floodlights was incredible. Ipswich – third in the league – were favourites but I headed us into the lead on the half-hour mark.

Just before the break, though, we conceded an unlucky own goal and then found ourselves under pressure during the second half. Fortunately for us, Ipswich had a second goal ruled out before I struck again with ten minutes remaining.

 

Alan Taylor scores

 

The Ipswich lads were distraught and, looking back, I now understand how they felt – chances to play in Wembley finals don’t come along too often.

The scenes outside Stamford Bridge were unbelievable and heading home, the King’s Road was just a sea of Claret and Blue as our fans sang in the streets.

Ron Greenwood and John Lyall have to take great credit for settling me into the team so quickly and for getting us all on that fabulous cup run, while senior players like Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard and Bobby Gould were a massive help to us youngsters, too.

Confidence was high and there was a real buzz as we prepared to facing Bobby Moore’s Fulham at Wembley. Playing in an FA Cup final was all that I could think about…

 

DOUBLE BUBBLE

Alan Taylor celebrates at WembleyLess than six months after leaving Rochdale, I was playing in an FA Cup final.

As a schoolboy, all I’d wanted to do was be a professional footballer for a First Division club, score goals and win trophies – now this was my big opportunity to achieve that.

Back then, it was the biggest game of the season and, on 3 May 1975, the television cameras followed us everywhere, even coming onto the team coach.

Driving down Wembley Way, the enormity of the occasion hit me, when I saw all the supporters cheering and waving, before a nervous tension came over me as we entered the stadium, went down the tunnel and walked the full-length of the pitch to greet the Hammers supporters at the far end.

Goalless at half-time, John Lyall urged: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ On the hour-mark, I got my chance, when Peter Mellor parried Billy Jennings’ shot and I tapped home the rebound.

Just five minutes later, the ‘keeper couldn’t hold Graham Paddon’s scorcher, either, and I netted again before failing to do better with a header. That would’ve been my hat-trick but you can’t have everything and I’ll still take my two goals all day, any day!

Again, I was all over the back pages but that 1975 final means more today than it did back then.

I never realised the impact that 90 minutes would have on the rest of my days. Every single day, someone wants to talk about my two FA Cup-winning goals – that afternoon was the highlight of my life.

 

KOP THAT

I would go on to score 17 goals in my 50 appearances during the 1975/76 campaign and carrying on from where I’d left off at Wembley, I got off to a flying start, scoring at Stoke City on the opening Saturday.

Three days later I had my first-ever experience of playing at Anfield and it couldn’t have gone any better. Although Ian Callaghan put Liverpool ahead, I equalised with a close-range header ten minutes before half-time.

Midway through the second half, ‘keeper Ray Clemence collided with defender Phil Thompson under pressure from Keith Robson, leaving me with a tap-in.

 

Alan Taylor scores against Liverpool

 

Neither goal was spectacular but with 40,564 packed into Anfield, at least I’d silenced the legendary Kop end by scoring right in front them!

Typically, we then came under immense Reds pressure and, having earlier been the two-goal hero, with ten minutes remaining, disaster struck when I failed to control a ball that had been knocked into me and Liverpool – being Liverpool – quickly broke upfield and John Toshack equalised.

After that, we were just hanging on as Peter Cormack hit the bar and John McDowell cleared one off the line before we survived another huge Anfield roar for a penalty. Thankfully, we held on to leave Merseyside with a 2-2 draw.

By Saturday evening, I’d then grabbed another double in our 3-2 win over my future club, Burnley.

Despite being tightly-marked, I was on the top of my game and goal-scorers love their statistics – just seven days into the season, I’d already scored five goals in three games. 

 

UNITED WE STAND

We’d only lost two of our opening dozen league games and were sitting in third just a couple of points behind leaders Manchester United, who arrived at Upton Park on 25 October 1975.

Alan TaylorI’d struggled with a badly bruised toe in the build-up but being so desperate to play, I ended up having a cortisone injection. United was – and still is – a big, big game and I just didn’t want to miss that one or any others for that matter.

The Big Match cameras were there to capture a typical classic, action-packed game of the Seventies.

On six minutes, Mervyn Day drop-kicked the ball as far upfield as he possibly could and, with Brian Greenhoff and Martin Buchan hesitating, it was a case of who got there first as I nipped in between those two United defenders and nodded the bouncing ball over their advancing ‘keeper, Alex Stepney.

Battling for everything in a fiercely-contested match watched by 38,528 spectators, we held our lead until the interval but early in the second-half things got heated on the South Bank terraces, too.

There was a 20-minute hold-up, when both sets of supporters spilled onto the pitch. We lost concentration and when the game restarted, [future Hammers manager] Lou Macari equalised before Bobby Gould thankfully got our winner. By now, there was press talk surrounding England but Malcolm Macdonald was the man with the shirt and with only one substitute plus fewer friendlies it didn’t happen, although I did get to represent a Don Revie International XI at Fulham later that season.

 

PASSPORT TO EUROPE

It was immense to represent West Ham United in the 1975/76 Cup Winners Cup and I scored my first-ever European goal in Armenia against Ararat Eravan.

Then, in the quarter-finals we travelled to Den Haag, who raced into a four-goal, first-half lead.

We looked out of the cup after the Dutch had been awarded two harsh penalties, while scoring another goal following a dodgy dropball. To say that things hadn’t gone well is an understatement!

But Billy Jennings gave us hope with two second-half goals to set up an unbelievable European night under those Boleyn Ground floodlights.

 

Alan Taylor

 

Backed by our crowd, we took the game to the opposition and I scored on the half-hour. Frank Lampard’s rocket quickly doubled our lead before I was fouled, leaving Billy Bonds to smash home the penalty. Now we were 3-0 up inside 36 minutes and leading 5-4 on aggregate!

Standing on the pitch, I felt the entire stadium shaking.

Den Haag had used up all their luck back at their place, although they did finally score to set up a nervy, final half-hour. But we went through on away goals before knocking out the favourites – Eintracht Frankfurt – in the semi-finals.

We lost the final to Anderlecht, which was difficult to take. Then again, the thought of winning the FA Cup and playing in a European final had been a million miles away at Rochdale, 18 months earlier. I went on to have a great 19-year career with eight clubs and, even today, still love my involvement with West Ham United on the corporate side.

 

Dinamo Zagreb Club London