Harry Redknapp: David Moyes has done a great job at West Ham United
Harry Redknapp shares his memories of facing Leeds United as player and manager and his views on David Moyes’ West Ham United with the Evening Standard's Ken Dyer...
Harry Redknapp was on his way to the golf course when I caught up with him earlier this week to talk about his West Ham United versus Leeds United memories – and his opinion of the current Hammers team.
I can recall Harry once telling me about the time he was sent-off at Elland Road for booting Billy Bremner, perhaps not his best move – but before that, he is keen to talk about what he still says is ‘one of the all-time great football performances’ he has ever seen.
It was back in the winter of 1966 and Ron Greenwood’s team had struck a rich vein of scoring form.
On Bonfire Night, Monday 5 November, West Ham had beaten Fulham 5-1 and two nights later were back at Upton Park for a League Cup tie against a formidable Leeds side.
Harry takes up the story…
“I didn’t play in the game but I was at Upton Park that night and what a game that was,” he recalled.
“West Ham won 7-0 and that was definitely one of the all-time great football performances it’s been my privilege to watch.
“The football was just amazing against what was a really good Leeds team. West Ham just destroyed them that night.
“’Budgie’ Byrne was just unplayable – what a player he was. There will be a lot of West Ham fans who wouldn’t have seen him, but he really was a special talent.
“Our goalkeeper Jim Standen would half volley the ball up the park to 5ft 7ins tall Budgie, who would be backing into 6ft 3ins Jack Charlton, cushioning the ball on his chest before volleying it out to the wing.”
A GREAT UNIT
Byrne, despite reaching new heights that night, didn’t score. But John Sissons and Geoff Hurst both helped themselves to hat-tricks, while the other goal came from Martin Peters.
Four days later, West Ham went to Tottenham and won 4-3, bringing their goals total to 16 in three games!
“Despite that special night, though,” Harry continued, “that Leeds team, as it developed, was a great unit. Even now, if I had to stake my life on picking a team to win a football match, it would be the Leeds side of that time.
“They had a terrific balance with some great players, aggression – in fact everything you needed to win matches. Under manager Don Revie, they were simply amazing back then.”
Harry was a regular member of Ron Greenwood’s team two years later, when they travelled up to Leeds for a First Division match.
Leeds were already 1-0 ahead when, in the 30th minute, Harry found himself back helping out.
“We were defending a corner,” he recalled, “and Billy Bremner stamped on my foot. My reaction was to kick him and that was that, he went down and I was sent-off.”
West Ham lost 2-0.
It wasn’t the last time Harry cursed his luck against Leeds…
“As West Ham manager I remember a late-season game against Leeds in 1999 when we lost 5-1 at Upton Park and had three players sent-off, goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, Steve Lomas and Ian Wright!” he chuckled.
Despite that nightmare, though, West Ham finished fifth that season, the second highest in their history.
As for this season, Harry couldn’t be more impressed by the job David Moyes, his staff and the players are doing.
“It’s amazing the turnaround in the last couple of years,” he said. “David has done a great job, he has a top backroom staff around him with so much knowledge and experience.
“Things are good, the crowd are loving the football they are watching and that’s what winning matches does for you.
“They have a good balance around the team and the club have made some good signings. Craig Dawson, for example, has been a great signing. To take him on a free transfer from Watford, was amazing. He never lets anybody down and he’s scored vital goals from set pieces.
“Only someone like David Moyes would have signed someone like that. A foreign manager wouldn’t have thought about taking an English defender who couldn’t always get in the Watford team. David knew Craig’s character, what he could do and he’s just been a brilliant signing.
“The two boys from the Czech Republic have been terrific and I liked the look of Nikola Vlašić last Sunday. He showed some fine touches and that performance against Leeds in the FA Cup tie will have done him a world of good.
“Declan Rice has been terrific for them and they still have Mark Noble in and around the place as well which is so important in terms of spirit.
“I know there’s been some noise about Declan’s future but I think he will stay. It makes me laugh when people talk about him going to a bigger club. West Ham are a big club. Look at that stadium. Every week it’s sold out, that shows you how big West Ham are – and getting bigger all the time.
“I do believe they have a great chance of grabbing that fourth place this year. They are every bit as good as the other teams up there.
“They’ve coped well up to now with the extra games in the Europa League as well as losing both their central defenders through injury.
“The Club looks in good shape and no-one gets an easy game when they play West Ham.”