Wembley cup final nerves? Not a bit of it as Dev and his Hammers mates go to dogs!
- Credit: PA
Preparing for something as big as the FA Cup Final can be a nervy time, especially if it is the biggest game you have ever played in.
But for West Ham winger Alan Devonshire he had other ideas on the night before the big match.
“We went to the hotel on the Friday, but most of us decided to go to Wembley dogs that night,” said Devonshire, who is now 64.
“We weren’t drinking or anything, but it helped us to relax and get used to the pitch and surroundings and I think Arsenal were a lot more nervous than us on the day.
“They were also playing in the Cup Winners’ Cup the following Wednesday and obviously they had some very good players, but we were confident in our ability.”
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It had been a meteoric rise for the Hammer, who had been released by Crystal Palace early in his career.
“I fell out of love with the game and I certainly started to doubt my ability,” he added.
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“My dad persuaded me to go to Southall where I played in midfield and I was also working at Hoover’s and living in Ealing.
“We had a good season and won promotion and I heard that a few teams were watching me.
“I had Reading and Southampton looking at me, while I also played a reserve game for Brentford. They wanted me to play another, but it would have meant a day off work and they weren’t going to pay for that.”
Devonshire turned down the offer from the Bees and it was just as well as a bigger fish was about to appear.
“Southall manager Geoff Taylor told me to be patient as a big club was looking at me and after a midweek match he said that there were a couple of people from West Ham who wanted to talk to me,” he explained.
“It was Eddie Bailly and Charlie Faulkner who had watched me for about six games. They told me to come down to the club on the Thursday where I met Ron Greenwood and John Lyall and they offered £100 a week for me to sign a one-year deal.
“I said I was on more than that with Hoover and Southall, but that was their offer and they were not budging. I also got a signing-on fee of £250, so I decided to go for it.”
The rest is history as Devonshire quickly became one of the vital cogs at West Ham and an important part in their future.
“I played a reserve game on the Monday and I was asked to join the matchday squad for a cup tie with QPR, not to play, just to get a taste of the atmosphere,” he remembered.
“They said it would probably take a year for me to break into the first team, but there were a couple of injuries the day before that match and I was drafted into the team.
“I was a regular in the team from then on, and we started to build a decent team by signing the likes of David Cross and Stuart Pearson, Ray Stewart and bringing in Alvin Martin.”
It didn’t prevent disaster happening for the Hammers in 1979 as they were relegated following defeat by Liverpool, something ‘Dev’ could do nothing about.
“I was injured for the last four games of the season with a dead leg and we lost the last game to Liverpool to go down,” he reflected.
From disaster, West Ham built again, not particularly in the Second Division where they failed to trouble the promotion contenders, but in the FA Cup.
They saw off the challenge of First Division outfits West Brom and Aston Villa, before facing Everton in the semi-final, which went to a replay.
“We should have won the first semi-final against Everton,” he admitted. “I gave away a penalty, although I never touched Asa Hartford and the ball just went over our heads.
“So I was not happy with that and then Paul Allen scored what looked like a perfectly good goal that was ruled offside.
“I still don’t know why, it was certainly not him who was offside.”
Without that decision there would have been no replay at Elland Road and then West Ham fans would have missed two of the most memorable goals in their proud cup history.
“I scored probably my best and most important goal in the replay,” said Alan.
“Trevor (Brooking) gave me the ball and I played a one-two with Stuart Pearson before taking it into the box.
“Billy Wright tried to hack me down, but missed and I went through to score.”
Frank Lampard’s header gave West Ham the win and sent them to Wembley where even more history was about to be made by a Second Division side against holders Arsenal.
“The thing about the final is that it was so hot. It was about 80 degrees that day, but out on the pitch, which was in a bowl, it was over 100 degrees,” said Dev, who revealed something else that would never happen today.
“Some of us had a little flutter on us winning in 90 minutes at 9/2 which seemed like a good value bet,” he revealed.
The winning goal came early and the former non-league player was at the heart of it.
“I got the ball on the left and went past Pat Rice and one other player and I was always told that when I get to the by-line to cross it to the back post away from the goalkeeper,” he recalled.
“Pat Jennings got a hand to it, but the ball ended up in the net and I don’t think Trevor gets the credit he deserves for that goal as he had to stoop and twist to get on to it and it could have gone anywhere.”
It was the defining moment of the final, but despite his part in the goal, the winger was not happy with his display.
“I was disappointed with the way I played, I could have done so much more, but the result was the thing and we were in control for the game,” he said.
“They had a lot of the ball in the second half, but we were happy to let Brian Talbot have the ball because we thought Liam Brady was their dangerman.”
West Ham held on to clinch the cup and it was a time that Devonshire will never forget.
“It was probably the biggest game in my career,” he said.
“Playing for England was a great achievement, but this was really special.
“The next day when we went to the Town Hall on the coach was equally memorable. There were so many people there to see us, we were hanging out of the windows of the coach, which probably wasn’t very safe!
“It was an incredible day and an incredible time for us and the fans and it is sad that West Ham have never managed to do it since.”