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West Ham in Romania and Russia 1980-81

PUBLISHED: 18:35 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:50 24 March 2020

West Ham v Timisoara programme

West Ham v Timisoara programme

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The Hammers European Cup-Winners Cup campaign in the words of two of those who were there

Programme from West Ham's trip to Timisoara in Romania in 1980Programme from West Ham's trip to Timisoara in Romania in 1980

The European Cup Winners Cup run of 1980-81 proved to be an eventful one all the way through.

After beating Castilla behind closed doors at Upton Park in round one, the team were drawn against Romanian side Timisoara in the next round.

Dinamo Tbilisi ticket from 1981Dinamo Tbilisi ticket from 1981

A 4-0 victory at home meant they were all but through as they travelled to Eastern Europe for the second leg, but it certainly proved an eye-opener for Recorder and West Ham photographer Steve Bacon.

“It was certainly very different,” he said. “We saw Ceaușescu’s Palace, but all the other houses in Timisoara seemed to be hovels.

Tbilisi with the cup winners cupTbilisi with the cup winners cup

“The strange thing was they all had these elaborate chandeliers, not sure what that was about.”

He continued: “I remember the food was terrible and we went into this department store and the shelves were all empty, a bit like England is roday.

David Cross celebrates scoring the winning goal for West Ham UnitedDavid Cross celebrates scoring the winning goal for West Ham United

“We looked round and there was just one tiny black and white TV to buy, God knows what they were showing on that!”

Striker David Cross also has memories of that trip.

“I was born in 1950 and it reminded me of England at the end of the fifties,” he reflected. “You would go in a shop and there were empty shelves.

“The game was played at 2pm in the afternoon on a Wednesday and we didn’t expect anybody to be there, but it was packed.

“People were left off work for the game and it was cheap to get in.”

West Ham lost 1-0, but still went through to round three, but they then met Soviet side Dinamo Tibilisi.

“They still talk about the game at our place,” said Steve. “They beat us 4-1 and it was one of the best performances we had seen by an away team at Upton Park.”

The trip to what is now Georgia was always going to be a tough one, but it proved another interesting experience.

“When we went to Tibilisi in the next round what surprised us most was the heat,” said Cross.

“We flew via Moscow where it was snowing and then two hours down to Toblisi and it was between 60 and 70 degrees.”

Steve also recalls the trip: “Because of the poor food in Romania, I remember we took our own to Russia for the game.

“Steaks and smoked salmon, things like that.”

West Ham won the return leg 1-0, but it was not enough and their run in the competition was over. Tibilisi went on to win the trophy.

It had been a strange and very eventful run and one that fans of a certain age will certainly never forget.


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