The highlights have been few and far between for West Ham United's long-suffering fans over the years - three FA Cup wins, a European Cup-Winners' Cup victory, various other cup runs that failed on the verge of success and, of course, the enjoyment of watching great players such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Trevor Brooking.
Throughout the 47 seasons the East London club has spent in the top flight of English football, the prospect of challenging for the League Championship title has been little more than a pipe dream.
Except for one season: 1985-86.A 16th-place finish in 1984-85 had hardly filled the fans with optimism for the coming campaign, and the loss of young star Paul Allen to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur had some supporters questioning the ambition of the club.
They were in for a shock. Little did he know it at the time, but manager John Lyall's summer purchases of young unknown Scottish striker Frank McAvennie from St Mirren for 340,000 and diminutive winger Mark Ward from Oldham Athletic for 250,000, were the final pieces in a jigsaw that fell into place spectacularly to provide West Ham fans with a campaign they would never forget. On the final Saturday of the season, the Hammers faced West Bromwich Albion still holding genuine hopes of finishing as League Champions.
With Liverpool playing at Chelsea that day, Lyall's men knew that if they beat the Baggies and the Blues triumphed at Stamford Bridge, they only needed a victory against Everton two days later to secure their first-ever league title.
Despite victory at the Hawthorns, though, news filtered through that Liverpool player-manager Kenny Dalglish had hit a winner against Chelsea to ensure that the Reds couldn't be caught.
Eighteen years on, this book reflects in detail on the one and only season in which the claret-and-blue army were really able to chant 'We're gonna win the league'.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
- Publication Date: 06/05/2004
- Category: Football (Soccer, Association football)
- ISBN: 9781840188646
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Review by Polaris-
Essential reading for any fan of the Hammers. Tony McDonald has skilfully recreated the atmosphere and the drama of what was a momentous season for West Ham United. With the aid of extensive interviews with the Boys of '86 themselves - barring the reluctant main man - Manager John Lyall RIP - and many of the coaching staff as well, the reader really gets a full flavour of what it must have been like inside what was largely a very happy dressing room at the time.Written very simply and covering the matches as they came week after week, in both the league and the cup competitions, this is a quick read, and a very satisfying one. The season rushes by in a blur of recognition as you will no doubt find yourself recollecting some (if not all) of the season's highlights (and the occasional lowlight). For any West Ham fan too young to have been aware at the time, this will bring to life the many famous names at the club they will no doubt be familiar with. For any non-West Ham fan out there this will prove a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the men at this famous club enjoying the season of their lives in the era before Sky TV, the Premier League, multi-millionaire players, and the disappearance of many of the old fashioned values that many sorely miss today.The final chapter addresses the aftermath of the season and how things panned out for the club and it's players in the 2 or 3 seasons that followed - really interesting reading. At the book's end is a useful chapter referencing the entire season's worth of line-ups (for both home and away teams - some blasts from the past to be found here...) and appearances/goals figures, for the statistician in you. There is also a fun chapter recounting the chart hits of each month, and items in the news both in general football and the wider world at large. Recommended.