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Neymar’s 222 million Euro transfer from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain on August 3, 2017 prompts memories of their March 2017 clash in the Catalan capital. After losing the first leg of their European Champions League quarter-final 4-0 to PSG in Paris, the Spanish champions recovered to win the second leg at the Nou Camp 6-1 and 6-5 on aggregate! This amazing turnaround serves as a reminder of a remarkable European quarter-final recovery by West Ham United. It all happened back in 1976 and is a strong contender for the Hammers’ greatest ever comeback.
Four Goals Adrift at Half-Time
On Wednesday March 3, 1976 West Ham United faced the Dutch side, FC Den Haag, in the 1st leg of the European Cup Winners' Cup (ECWC) quarter-final. After 45 minutes Den Haag led 4-0 and looked to have the tie sewn-up. It was looking bleak for the Hammers. However, a spirited second half fightback reduced the deficit to two goals with the Hague side winning the first leg 4-2. Two valuable second half goals by centre forward Billy Jennings gave West Ham a fighting chance for the 2nd leg two weeks later.
Since their epic 1976 ECWC quarter-final tie, the two side have forged a friendly relationship. In May 1979 the Dutch side invited the Hammers' Youth team under the guidance of Tony Carr to complete in their annual ADO Den Haag Youth Tournament. In three consecutive years, 1979-1981, the youth side came through their group sections to reach the final.
Den Haag’s Complacency?
In the build-up to the Upton Park second leg, Boskov, Den Haag’s Yugoslav coach, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying “We’ll get through. West Ham have lost so many times recently and scored so few goals I refuse to believe there’s going to be a sudden, sensational turnabout”. But the quarter-final didn’t match Den Haag’s expectations.
The Most Exciting Floodlit Upton Park Match?
The return leg on Wednesday March 17, 1976 turned out to be one of the most exciting 90 minutes under the Upton Park floodlights in the club’s history. To reach the ECWC semi-finals the Hammers' task was to win by two goals providing Den Haag didn’t score more than one goal, or if they did, the Hammers had to win on the night by a three goal margin.
ECWC Quarter-final 1st Leg
The team’s moral and hopes could not have been high pre-kick-off. Four days after suffering yet another league defeat, this time 2-1 to Newcastle United and with the Hammers facing a two goal deficit from the first leg they would not have been the bookies favourites to progress. Many of the Upton Park faithful must have harboured low expectations as the crowd of just under 30,000 was well below stadium’s capacity. Fortunately, the Hammers’ fans were in good voice that night as the home side stayed focussed on the task ahead.
To complete the remarkable turnaround West Ham United won the second leg 3–1! The Times’ match report’s heading summed up the evening: “Den Haag sink in East End Mud”. The report progressed to say: having thrilled an Upton Park crowd of 29,829 with a fine attacking display which eventually left their Dutch visitors floundering in the East End mud.
The following is an account of how the key match points, goals and aggregate score rolled out over the two legs….
Den Haag 4 - 2 West Ham United (HT 4-0)
Zuiderpark Stadium, The Hague
Wednesday March 3, 1976
Masvedd (13, 15 [pen], 38 [pen], Schoenmaker 42 mins)
West Ham United:
Billy Jennings (50, 58 mins)
Thie, Mansveld (capt), De Caluwe, Van Vliet, Korevaar, Kila, Perazic, Schoenmaker, Ouwehand, Van Leeuwen, Swanenburg.
West Ham United:
Mervyn Day, Mick McGiven (Keith Coleman 46 mins), Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds (capt), Tommy Taylor, Kevin Lock, Alan Taylor, Graham Paddon, Billy Jennings, Alan Curbishley, Keith Robson.
Pre-match preparations did not start well for the Hammers. Influenza forced Trevor Brooking to miss the tie and stay behind in England. Hours before the game was due to kick off manager John Lyall also went down with the flu bug and was unable to attend the game and had to watch the proceedings from his hotel room. Ron Greenwood stepped in and re-jigged the team’s formation when full back John McDowell failed a late fitness test which necessitated Frank Lampard switching from his usual left back berth to right back, with Mick McGiven being introduced at left back and Kevin Lock moving to the left flank.
Den Haag 1st goal: 12th minute:
Van Leeuwen prodded a shot against the West Ham defence. The ball popped up and the incredibly versatile Mansveld was up in the penalty area to score from the rebound.
Den Haag 2nd goal: 16th minute:
Referee Glockner made his first significant intervention – a bad one – signalling a penalty when he thought McGiven handled a bouncing through pass from Mansveld who took the penalty as clinically as he controlled his team. The West Ham players insisted afterwards that McGiven did not touch the ball.
(As an aside, Glockner had previously refereed the 1970 World Cup final: Brazil v Italy) the pernickety referee died in January 1999.
At half time there seemed no hope for West Ham yet with marvellous composure they played themselves back in the game. In John Lyall’s absence, Ron Greenwood reverted the team to something like their usual defence. Coleman replaced McGiven, Lampard moved to his usual left back spot and Lock to his normal sweeper’s role. The team formation changes made all of the difference as in the space of nine minutes two Graham Paddon passes resulted in goals.
Source of goal descriptions: first-half
(The Times match report, March 4, 1976)
Source of goal descriptions: second-half
(Daily Mail match report, March 4, 1976)
Referee Glockner left the ground with a police escort while the Den Haag coach Vujadin Boskov, not surprisingly said “He is the best referee we have had at this club”.
ECWC Quarter-final 2nd Leg
West Ham United 3 - 1 Den Haag (HT 3-0)
Wednesday March 17, 1976
West Ham United:
Alan Taylor (29 mins), Frank Lampard (33 mins), Billy Bonds [pen] (36 mins)
Schoenmaker (59 mins)
West Ham United:
Mervyn Day, Keith Coleman, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds (capt), Tommy Taylor (Mick McGiven 65 mins), Kevin Lock, Alan Taylor, Graham Paddon (Alan Curbishley 46 mins), Trevor Brooking, Keith Robson.
Thie, Mansveld (capt), Ouwehand, Van Vliet, Korevaar, Kila (Jol 75 mins), Perazic, Schoenmaker, Bres, Van Leeuwen, Albertsen (Swanenburg 65 mins).
West Ham’s 1st goal: 29th minute:
Brooking embarked on a penetrating run on the right and Thie (Den Haag’s goalkeeper) found his shot from the edge of the penalty area too hot to handle. There was an almighty scramble with Jennings and Taylor threatening to deprive each other of a scoring opportunity, but eventually Taylor was able to stab the ball home.
West Ham’s 2nd goal: 33rd minute:
Less than five minutes later, Brooking set up West Ham’s second goal. He held the ball out on the right for what seemed an eternity before Lampard appeared in space and unleashed a right foot thunderbolt from 30 yards which Thie can only have heard as it passed him.
West Ham’s 3rd goal: 36th minute:
In the 36th minute, Den Haag knew how West Ham had felt a fortnight ago as they conceded a penalty when Robson was fouled by Kila. Bonds made no mistake and West Ham went ahead on aggregate with only just over a third of the match completed and two away goals still in the bank.
Den Haag’s goal: 59th minute:
for all their pressure, West Ham conceded a goal on the hour when Day only half saved Mansveld’s free kick from just outside the penalty area. Schoenmaker was quick to score from the rebound. …..While Den Haag had been playing for time in the first half, it was now West Ham’s turn to take as long as they could over such events as corner kicks and throw ins.
Source of goal descriptions: Norman de Mosquita, The Times March 18, 1976
End of a Remarkable Turnaround
How the Quarter-final Legs & Aggregate Scores Evolved
At 8:15 pm on Wednesday March 3, 1976 who would have put money on West Ham United to win this ECWC quarter-final tie? But a half-time change in the side’s formation at The Zuiderpark Stadium was the first step in this remarkable recovery.
A Billy Jennings’ brace, probably the two most important goals he scored in claret and blue, made the first leg result more respectable. Then two weeks later, with a fit Trevor Brooking back in the side, and a different referee, the Hammers were firing on all cylinders!
Three first half goals under the Upton Park floodlights swept the Hammers into an aggregate lead. And despite the scare of a second half Den Haag goal to level the aggregate score it wasn’t sufficient to dent West Ham’s quarter-final victory on the away goals rule.
The quarter-final result moved the Hammers into the Europen Cup Winners' Cup semi-finals for the second time in the club’s history. Next up was the West German club, Eintracht Frankfurt. That turned out to be another nail biting affair and the subject of a future 'theyflysohigh' feature.
Zuiderpark Stadium - 1st Leg
Upton Park - 2nd Leg
1 - 0
2 - 0
3 - 0
4 - 0
4 - 1
4 - 2
West Ham 1 - 0
2 - 0
3 - 0
(4 - 3 agg)
(4 - 4 agg)
5 - 4
(5 - 4 agg)
(5 - 5 agg)
7 - 6
Den Haag 3rd goal: 40th minute:
The referee’s pedantic nature demonstrated as he scolded players (Bonds, Paddon & Lampard) for having their socks down, and his decision to give a second penalty seemed dubious. Lock attempted a marginally late tackle on van Vliet who was, I thought, a yard outside the penalty area, but fell over the boundary line. Mansveld strode up unconcerned by the protests, and placed the penalty past Day.
Den Haag 4th goal: 44th minute:
By far Mr. Glockner’s most extraordinary decision was still to come……… he stopped play to collect from Day a bottle which had been thrown onto the pitch, and then ran back to the half way line for a drop-ball to re-start play.
While Paddon waited a couple of yards away, Mr. Glockner merely placed the ball on the ground and, I am told by the players, said “Play on”. Paddon waited, not quite knowing what was happening.
Ouwehand thought more quickly, ran away with the ball, and passed to Schoenmaker, who pressed on upfield while West Ham stood aghast. Day made a nominal save effort to stop the attack, but Schoenmaker put the shot under his body.
Mervyn Day dives the wrong way as the Dutch sides second penalty
hits the back of the net
Den Haag players confronting Mervyn Day after converting their first penalty
West Ham's Tommy Taylor clears a shot from Joop Korevaar with an overhead kick close to the goal line
The Daily Mail’s match report heading focused on one of West Ham’s heroes: Brooking’s Night – West Ham take it away with Trevor. Back in the side after recovering from influenza, Trevor Brooking’s presence made all of the difference.
Bubbles Burst as Hammers Slid from 2nd to 18th in League Table
From West Ham United’s perspective 1975-76 was a strange season and one which reflected the club’s fluctuating fortunes. In the season following the 1975 FA Cup triumph, their early season form must have exceeded everyone’s expectations. In their first 23 league and cup games they only suffered two defeats. By the first week of November 1975 this fabulous run saw them climb to second place in Division One.
Unbelievably, after 14 Division One matches the Hammers and with a game in hand shared the same number of points but with an inferior goal difference to leaders Manchester United! Unfortunately, this highly impressive early season form could not be maintained.
Results started to deteriorate to such an extent that in a run of 16 league and cup games lasting from January 31, to April 13, 1976 the Hammers only registered a single win. This solitary victory was the crucial triumph over Den Haag in the European Cup Winners' Cup on March 17, 1976.
So from a high of 2nd place in November the Hammers had slowly drifted down the Division One table to finish the 1975-76 season in a highly disappointing 18th place. Only eight points and three league places away from relegation to Division Two.
It was difficult to pin-point the reason for the dramatic change in results. Perhaps it was down to failure to strengthen the squad after winning 1975’s FA Cup. The management duo of Ron Greenwood and JohnLyall had not made any significant changes to the team or squad. But if this was a contributory factor, how did the squad manage such a brilliant start to the 1975-76 season?
Nine of 1975 FA Cup Winning Team Faced Den Haag
For the Den Haag quarter-final tie the Hammers fielded nine players from the 1975 FA Cup winning XI. The missing pair, John McDowell and Pat Holland, were both playing for the reserves on their way back from injury. Two months later, both returned to the side in time for the European Cup Winners' Cup final against Anderlecht.
Against the Dutch side the Hammers fielded 13 players over the two legs. Nine from the Wembley winning side plus defenders Keith Coleman and Mick McGiven, midfielder Alan Curbishley and forward Keith Robson.
40th Anniversary Reunion
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Den Haag matches, in March 2017 the WHU Supporters Club organised a reunion of the players. Several players from both sides attended to reminisce and the photo captures West Ham supporter, Vic Lindsell, posing with a few players who played in that memorable game back in 1976.
Anglo-Dutch Relations Continue
The controversial fourth goal that put the Hammers four down at half-time
West Ham’s 1st goal: 51st minute:
Within six minutes of the re-start the Hammers had their first success, a slick move between Robson and Paddon ending with Jennings forcing a well-placed cross into the net.
West Ham’s 2nd goal: 59th minute:
Eight minutes later, West Ham crept closer, with the best goal to date, a spectacular header by the leaping Jennings.
Right on time Tommy Taylor made a crucial clearance to avert a fifth Den Haag goal when he cleared a header off the line with an overhead kick.
Billy Jennings scores the first of his two goals
Jennings headed second goal gives the Hammers a lineline for the 2nd leg
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller, support material Vic Lindsell and John Northcutt
Alan Taylor gets between two defenders
for the first goal
Francois van der Elst scores West Ham's second in the 2-0 victory in 1982
Kevin Lock, Henk Van Leeuwen, Billy Jennings, Hammers supporter Vic Lindsell,
Lex Shoenmaker and Keith Robson
2-2 at full time
lost 2-3 on pens
Algerian National Team
August 15, 1982
(Pike, Van der Elst)
August 12, 1986
August 9, 1981
DEN HAAG 4 - 2 WEST HAM UNITED
First Team Friendlies
Since their 1976 ECWC clash the senior sides have met for three friendly matches. All have been pre-season August games at The Zuiderpark Stadium. The Hammers record is very good as they clocked two wins and a draw.