I was there! West Ham fans share memories of being at Wembley on that historic day

PUBLISHED: 17:00 10 May 2020

First day cover

First day cover


A trip to Wembley Stadium for an FA Cup final has the potential to create a lifetime of memories for supporters.

West HAm on the bus tourWest HAm on the bus tour

Three West Ham fans recall that memorable May day in 1980, while one Arsenal follower tries to forget all about it.

Martin Osborne

I hadn’t got a ticket for the final and did all the usual things that never work, all the usual pleading and begging but wait...

Steve Blowers (left) on cup final day.with Matt Fisher, Alan Fairchild, Steve Fisher, Nigel Samuels)Steve Blowers (left) on cup final day.with Matt Fisher, Alan Fairchild, Steve Fisher, Nigel Samuels)

I worked in the City at the time and one of my clients rang me to say did I want his ticket as he wasn’t able to go. Woo hoo!! Yes please.

It turns out he was an Arsenal fan and I would have to collect it from Highbury.

So off I go. It was midweek, a mid-morning, bright and sunny. You know the scene, people milling about, loads of shifty geezers with the hand inside their coat talking out the side of their mouths.

I’d only been to Highbury a few times before and felt nervous about asking the way, so taking meaningful strides I stalked around looking for the right entrance.

West Ham flagWest Ham flag

I found it and I had to actually go through the Marble Halls which until then I had doubted ever existed but lo and behold there they were!

I joined a queue desperately trying to avoid any eye contact or conversation until I got to the head of the queue. I produced whatever it was I had to show and then, in my hand, I had it. I had a ticket for the final, standing, at the Arsenal end. Oh well I thought, no problem. Wembley was quite relaxed in those days and I was sure I’d be able to switch.

On the way out on the steps outside the ground there was a small crowd gathered. Looking closer it was Pat Rice flogging his ticket allocation. I remember that I’d never seen a roll of money that large before!

My Dad was a steward at Wembley so we went together really early because he had to register and we stood and had a drink in one of the bars with the other stewards until the gates opened and he had to go.

Evening Standard pulloutsEvening Standard pullouts

I hadn’t taken my ‘lucky’ scarf which grieved me no end as I wasn’t absolutely certain about getting in the West Ham end. Dad had said I could go with him depending on where he was allocated, but unfortunately he’d been put in the posh seats so that wouldn’t be a possibility.

So off I went to the West Ham end and joined the Happy Hammers crushing through the gate. I approached the steward and told him my sad story and blow me down he asked me a soppy question ‘to see if I was a real supporter’. That done, in I went.

The tension was ill making. We weren’t expected to win, we shouldn’t have won, we scored too early, we couldn’t hold a lead , our form wasn’t great, we looked weak at the back, they’d got Brady, surely we couldn’t do it?

The rest is a marvellously happy, sunny memory that has lasted these long years and will hopefully last until (like the rest of my memories) it just one day disappears.

West Ham signed picWest Ham signed pic

Allan Norris

With tickets rarer than PPE for NHS staff in the current crisis, I could only watch the 1980 FA Cup Final against Arsenal on TV.

As part of ITV’s Cup Final build-up, on the Friday night before the final they used to run a programme called, “Who will win the Cup?” and most of the panel of three or four experts and the studio audience thought it was a formality for the Gunners to see off Second Division West Ham.

Final programme and pics from Cup FinalFinal programme and pics from Cup Final

One Arsenal fan in the audience went so far as to say the Gunners feared strike force of Frank Stapleton and Alan Sunderland would have a field day and would have no trouble in shooting down West Ham.

The thing I remember most about this, is that a West Ham fan coolly retorted to this jibe by asking “How are Stapleton and Sunderland going to score, when Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin won’t let them have a kick?”

You may also want to watch:

If you watch the final, that is exactly what happened. Our great captain “Bonzo” and his young apprentice bottled up the Arsenal attack, and enabled Trevor Brooking’s “bullet” header to bring the Cup back to East London. COYI!

Geoff Pike signed pic celebrationsGeoff Pike signed pic celebrations

Steve Blowers

Having barely passed our driving tests, third round day had seen us embark on our first-ever Hammers away trip by car and, heading up the M1 towards The Hawthorns, we certainly travelled more in hope than expectation.

But after witnessing incredible Phil Parkes single-handedly and defiantly force a replay against First Division West Bromwich Albion, victory in the Boleyn Ground replay consequently led to us seeing off fellow second-tier opponents Orient and Swansea City.

We also knocked out top-flight Aston Villa and Everton on the way to Wembley, but setting off for the Twin Towers on May 10, knew that FA Cup holders Arsenal were a totally different proposition.

Having reached the European Cup Winners’ Cup final, they were on course to finish in the top four, too.

Parkes famously remarked: “Some of our fans probably hoped in their hearts that we’d win, while thinking in their heads that we’d lose. But as players we knew we’d beat Arsenal – both in our hearts and our heads.”

Following our epic semi-final road trips to Villa Park and Elland Road, the short spin around the North Circular to Wembley seemed to take equally as long in a bumper-to-bumper, carnival convoy of vehicles, with horns blaring, decked in everything West Ham United.

That din was nothing compared to the claret and blue crescendo that greeted Trevor Brooking’s legendary, stooping header, which beat the floundering Pat Jennings.

The subsequent, seemingly eternal, nail-biting 77 minutes were agony knowing that just one moment of Liam Brady brilliance or a Frank Stapleton shot could turn the final on its head.

With John Lyall’s tireless underdogs covering every blade of the sun-drenched Wembley grass, though, Arsenal barely threatened Parkesy’s goal.

Finally, for the second time in five seasons, Billy Bonds thankfully climbed those 39 steps up to the Royal Box to lift the famous old trophy before the claret and blue victory procession inched its way back home East, where the ‘Bubbles’ continued to be blown long into night. What an unforgettable day!

Mike Weinstein (Arsenal)

I don’t think therapy existed in 1980 but I know that miserable May 10 afternoon at Wembley took a terrible toll on me.

While Hammers get misty-eyed at memories of Trevor Brooking glancing home that 13th-minute header right in front of my upper-tier position behind the goal, spare a thought for a 15-year-old Arsenal fan making his first visit to Wembley.

Yes, I’ve since seen Arsenal win more FA Cups than I’ve got hairs on my head, but I wasn’t to know that then, was I? It broke me and you couldn’t care less, could you.

Some 40 years on, I remember the build-up as if it was yesterday, the fight with my dad as he dropped me at Highbury at 7am to get my ticket with the queue already snaking once around the ground; the fear of losing said ticket or being mugged on the way home, even after stuffing it in my pants for safe keeping; and agreeing, on the day of the Final, with my mum’s request to take some revision with me when I left home at 9am for the three-stop trip to Wembley (yes, of course I dumped it at the first opportunity!).

Most of all, though, I remember the smug feeling as I walked up Wembley Way for what, against a Second Division side, was certain to be a second successive FA Cup Final win.

I can’t remember much else about the game, save Willie Young’s tackle on Paul Allen which we all agreed wasn’t even a foul (how did he get away with it?).

I left Wembley in tears and decided to walk home (Wembley to Canons Park). One Arsenal sage, maybe one of the many I listened to before the game was just about audible above the chorus of Bubbles.

“Stop crying son, we’re in another final on Wednesday and we’ll definitely win that one.”

Types therapist in Google...

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder