Friday, August 26, 2016

TODAY'S OPPONENTS: WEST HAM

Trevor Sinclair, who played for both sides, is tackled by Joey Barton in the 2002-03 game
Little more than three months have passed since City waltzed past West Ham at the London Stadium in November, leaving the ball in the home net four times before heading for the exits.

The thrashing came on the back of earlier league and cup victories in recent years that have reached 4 (twice) and 5 goal margins.

Last season West Ham descended on the Etihad and took City's to the limit in an eventual 2-1 defeat, having first taken the lead through Angelo Ogbonna. Goals from Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva redressed the balance.

City's last defeat to the Hammers dates back to September 2015 when early goals from Moses and Sakho had caught the Blues on the hop, with Joe Hart watching Moses's low shot creep past as early as the 8th minute. It would herald a final season of stuttering progress under the departing Manuel Pellegrini, the initial burst of five wins turning out to be the same kind of false dawn as his successor Pep Guardiola's 10-win starting streak the season after. Pellegrini returns now as boss of West Ham, with a side that contains old City favourites Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta.

West Ham have in recent years been a relatively supine opponent for City, with only two defeats since 2009. The Londoners' best spell against City in modern times was in the 90s when they pilfered five victories against a City side heading for dark times at the end of the decade. In the 70s and 80s both clubs had a reputation for rich attacking football with little or no end product in terms of trophies, although West Ham brought home the FA Cup in 1975 and 1980 and served up many a match for the connoisseurs, with City more often than not coming out on top.

No History Whatsoever: Founded in 1895, the Hammers have been going since 1900 as West Ham, before that as Thames Ironworks, where their Irons nickname hails from. Prolific in the FA Cup in the 70s, they also reached two Cup Winners Cup finals, wining one in 1965 v 1860 Munich and losing one in 1976 to Anderlecht. Their FA Cup triumphs in 1975 (v Bobby Moore and Alan Mullaery's second division Fulham) and in 1980 (as a second division side themselves v. hot favourites Arsenal) were iconic events in that decade, with scoring heroes Alan Taylor and Trevor Brooking going down in Upton Park folklore. The stooping header that Brooking defeated Arsenal with, however, was the last trophy West Ham won. Nearly 40 years have passed since then.

Niall Quinn heads towards goal in the Upton Park fixture from November 1993. (1-3)
Quirks: Provided the three stand-out stars for England's World Cup side of 1966. Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and the incomparable Bobby Moore formed an integral part of the World Cup winning effort. Hammers fans have lived off that fact for several decades. Moore, England's trophy winning captain, was in fact indebted to City manager Malcolm Allison for his football education. Moore was an apprentice at Upton Park when Big Mal held the future England centre half's position in the first team. Allison, a keen tactician and student of the Hungarian national team that had become the first overseas side to win at Wembley in 1953, took the young Moore under his wing from an early age. The Hammers icon always cited Allison as his mentor in the game right through to his sadly premature exit from football and early death from cancer.

Playlist: In March 1970, West Ham slid out onto the grass-free mudheap that was Maine Road in that era for a game that would become infamous for a cataclysmic goalkeeping error by Joe Corrigan. It is a blooper that the big goalkeeper was never allowed to fully forget. With Jimmy Greaves making his debut for the Hammers that afternoon, the fateful goal, scored full on the volley to keep the ball as far away from the clogging mud as possible, was netted by Ronnie Boyce. Catching Corrigan's weak clearance and knocking it straight back into the goal from the halfway line, the City 'keeper was still wiping the mud off his shorts. The look of shock and awe on Corrigan's face as the ball landed in the net will have kept him awake for many a night and he was beset with confidence problems in the next two years of his City career, before shaking off the demons and becoming a regular England squad keeper in the 70s and early 80s.


Ironically, the match was the first ever City-West Ham game to be covered by television, the BBC's prying cameras catching Corrigan's despair in full and glorious colour on one of the worst playing surfaces even the 70s managed to throw up.

In August 1974 the Hammers provided City with their opening day opposition in a game that was Asa Hartford's debut for City. Hartford had been part of an aborted attempt by Leeds to sign the feisty
Rodney Marsh pulls away from Tommy Taylor in 1974
midfielder from West Brom, but a medical scan had revealed a hole in the heart and Hartford, after a single day training with Leeds, was sent back to the Hawthorns. Three years later he signed for City and made his debut in a  thrilling, sunlit 4-0 victory over the Londoners, with goals coming from Mike Doyle, Dennis Tueart and two from Rodney Marsh.

It would be the start of a decade when City experienced good fortune and great results against their London rivals. West Ham, as now, were seen as something of a soft touch on their travels, but were a different proposition on their tight Upton Park pitch, where the crowd seemed to be practically spilling over the touchlines.

As the end of the 70s loomed, West Ham were relegated and, having won the Cup in 1980 as a 2nd division side, came back up to face City again in the early 80s. The match at Upton Park in 1982-83 season was notable for City's lack of self-discipline and once again Asa Hartford was to play a leading role.

In a match won 4-1 by the Hammers, City had both Hartford and Kevin Bond sent off. This could have been taken as a signal to those paying enough attention that City were not in great shape. The Hammers might have returned to the big time, but City were about to exit stage left. By the end of the season City were hanging on for dear life and a 2-0 home win over the Londoners provided something of a lifeline. Manager John Bond had jumped ship after a cup thrashing at Brighton and the hapless John Benson was attempting to steer the ship away from the rocks. The Hammers were just what a winless and lifeless City side needed, triumphing 2-0 to keep alive their hopes. It was all to no avail as the last day drama at home to Luton would scar a whole generation of City fans for life.

Strangely, after spending the 80s drifting badly, City again found relegation staring them in the face when West Ham hove into view four years later. 1986-87 was yet another dark year in City's history. The last game of the season, in East London, was memorable not for the result - City losing two-nil meant relegation was once again sealed - but for the crowd's reaction at the end of the game. The 80s had been riven with discontent, hooliganism and trouble. The atmosphere at grounds was febrile and dark, with wire fences and segregated pens commonplace around the grounds.

As the whistle went at Upton Park, a huge flood of fans came onto the pitch from the home end and charged towards the desolate City supporters. It seemed an ugly end to an already dreadful season was upon us, but the wave of Hammers fans stopped at the far touchline and began to applaud and serenade the City fans. To this day, a mutual respect has existed between the two sets of supporters because of what happened on 9th May 1987.

By the time West ham travelled north for a 4th round FA Cup tie at Maine Road in 1997-98 season, City were once again in the second tier and about to drop further. As an established Premier League side, the Hammers came north expecting to win comfortably but, on a day of blustery wind and bright sunshine, a live television audience saw City fight hard and witnessed one of Georgi Kinkladze's many sublime moments in a sky blue shirt. That the little Georgian's weaving magic for the equalising goal was cruelly snuffed out by ex-City schemer Steve Lomas's late winner gave a heavy pointer to how the next couple of years were set to play out for the club. Uwe Rosler's missed penalty eventually cost City dearly in a 2-1 defeat. Manager Frank Clark would be on his way within weeks as Joe Royle arrived to steward the club's first-ever descent into the third tier.

Steve Lomas in action v City for West Ham in 2000
By the 2002-03 season's final home game, the tables had been turned, with West Ham - now led by club ambassador Trevor Brooking - about to take the drop. With the Hammers desperately needing the points to avoid relegation and City playing their penultimate game at Maine Road before the move to the Commonwealth Games Stadium, tension was high.

In the end, a late goal by Freddie Kanouté brought the visitors all three points, but they still fell through the trap door two weeks later. Kanouté's sublime skills upfront were mirrored at the other end by another marksman with dubious mental strength, Nicolas Anelka. To match the Upton Park reception from 15 years earlier, West Ham's battling performance was roundly applauded by the home support, cementing the good relationship between both sets of fans. Anelka would score twice on his return to Anfield the following week to help lift Kevin Keegan's City to an unprecedented 8th spot after years of underachievement, as West Ham drifted to the division below.

Although the clubs have met in the FA Cup again in recent years (a win in 2008 and a defeat in 2006), the most memorable games came in the League Cup semi-finals of 2014, as Alvaro Negredo's exquisite hat-trick helped blow the hammers away 6-0. That the prolific Spaniard played - and was injured - in the second leg a week later was the beginning of the end for him at the Etihad, but City had laid the foundations for a classic triumph v Sunderland at Wembley in the final.

Truly a history of fluctuating fortunes, with one club usually meeting the other when their luck was on the wane and vice versa. On this occasion, both sides arrive in good health and good form, enjoying the backing of big crowds in new stadia and with good reason to look forward with optimism after the years of uncertainty that have clung to them for so long.

Played in both directions: Steve Lomas, Ian Bishop, Kevin Horlock, Trevor Morley, Eyal Berkovic, Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Wanchope, David Cross, Mark Ward, Marc Vivien Foé, Stuart Pearce, David James, Phil Woosnam, Clive Allen and Perry Suckling.

Steve Kinsey knocks in a cross ahead of Steve Walford in a League Cup replay 1984-85


 















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