WEST HAM 1965: Paying tribute to the unsung hero who won the Cup!
PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 May 2015
I sat down with Ant Sealey, son of match-winner Alan, to talk about those glory days
Inside a neat and tidy terraced house in Brentwood is a piece of West Ham memorabilia equal to anything in the rich history of the club.
It is framed to protect it like an ancient relic, but behind the glass is the unmistakeable colours of claret and blue.
Anthony Sealey is the proud man who lives here with wife Jo and seven-month-old daughter Lottie, but the PE teacher from Rise Park School in Romford is showing off something else today.
It was his father Alan who was the hero of the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final on May 19, 1965 and Ant holds aloft the framed shirt that his dad wore on that historic night at Wembley.
It is a poignant souvenir from that day. Alan’s career at West Ham was all but ended the following year after a freak accident while playing cricket with the rest of the lads. And he tragically died in 1996 after a long battle with cancer.
But Anthony and mum Barbara were back at Upton Park at the beginning of the month as part of the club’s celebrations of that night 50 years ago.
It was a day he will not forget in a hurry.
“It was emotional,” admitted Ant. “When they played out the goals on the big screen it was a real lump-in-the-throat moment, big time.
“For the occasion to be remembered the way it was, was great, with the chairman coming out, the silver salver we got and the wording on it.
“But for the players, the reception that they got on the pitch was why they played the game. It was so great to see and for 15 minutes it went back to those days and it was exactly as it should have been.
“The one thing that came across was that all the players couldn’t believe the reception that they had got. They were genuinely surprised and chuffed because it was a long time ago and you don’t know how the game has evolved, but they were cheered on and cheered off again which was great.”
Ant is clearly still emotional as he shows me the salver and flicks through his father’s photo collection from the time, so there is no surprise when he tells me his dad was also an emotional man.
“He would have been absolutely in his element I think,” said Ant, who was 17 when his father died. “That reception was about my Dad really and what his team achieved and that would’ve been a moment of great recognition for them.
“It was nice to get a little back from the people who run the club. He would’ve been very emotional, he was an emotional guy and I am sure he would have been welling up. If they’d tried to interview him, he would still have been stuttering now.
“When he spoke he did stutter, it is what it is, but the crowd had a chance to remember him for what he did and that was great.”
Despite the celebrations of that day, there is still a tinge of sadness in his voice when he thinks about it and what his dad was missing out on.
“It is strange because Dad isn’t around anymore,” he said. “We talk about him a lot, especially now with a new baby.
“It was the first time when I thought about how much he would love to be here. Knowing what a fun person he was and how proud he was of those achievements, he would have loved to have walked out at Upton Park again.
“It was just a shame that there was not enough done when he was still with us. It wasn’t about how good a player he was, no-one is saying he was one of the best players ever for West Ham, because firstly he didn’t have long enough of a career and secondly he probably wasn’t.
“But he did score two of the most important goals the club has ever scored. Not financially maybe compared to a play-off final or something like that, but for what he achieved that day.”
It has been a long time coming and players who were part of that team have come and gone, but it seems that the current owners, West Ham fans themselves, fully appreciate the history of the club and those that were a part of it.
“As a kid, it was sort of a lost era in terms of appreciation of what had happened,” said Ant. “We were in a football family and as well as Dad there was also his nephew Les and I am lucky because I have a lot of mates who know the history of the club.
“The boys of ’86 are well remembered because it was only 30 years ago, but the team that my Dad played in had some tough games in tough places, playing a ‘who dares wins’ style and they deserved to be remembered too.”
They certainly do and Ant is doing his bit at Rise Park School where the end of term usually means that he will take his coveted framed shirt in to show the youngsters.
“We have a lot of West Ham fans in school and I think they do know about him,” he said.
“Some of them know he played for West Ham and with You Tube now, you can show them goals that he scored.
“They usually ask why it is in black and white and stuff like that!
“It is great for that short time and then you move on to something else, but they are appreciative of the achievement and that adds a little bit of kudos to what I do.”
West Ham fans at the Burnley game became more appreciative of what Alan Sealey did for the club on that day 50 years ago this week. And as much as Ant is proud of his Dad and his achievements, it is for sure that Alan would have been so proud of his son and his little family.