West Ham FA Cup hero Taylor was almost cup-tied for 1975 triumph
PUBLISHED: 13:30 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:30 31 March 2020
PA Archive/PA Images
Hammers striker Alan Taylor talks us through his six goals in the FA Cup 45 years ago
It is 45 years ago that West Ham triumphed at Wembley in the FA Cup and one man became a Hammers legend.
But for goalscoring hero Alan Taylor it almost never happened!
“I was at Rochdale and I had scored 10 goals in about 10 games and I knew there were a few teams looking at me,” said rhe striker who is now an active 66-year-old living in Norwich.
“We played at Northampton on Fireworks night and both John Lyall and Ron Greenwood had come to watch me play which was a great thing for me.
“The following week, West Ham played at Liverpool in the league, while I was supposed to have played Marine, another Liverpool team in the first round of the FA Cup.
“It was said I was injured but in actual fact I had signed for West Ham on my 21st birthday and I was at Anfield to meet my new team-mates.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Taylor was not cup-tied and as the Hammers marched towards Wembley he was at the heart of it.
“I came down to London and stayed at the Bell Hotel in Epping. John Lyall lived nearby and he used to pick me up and take me to and from training.
“He was a great coach and also a lovely man and I will always be grateful to him and Ron Greenwood for giving me my chance.”
Alan arrived at roughly the same time as two other youngsters in Keith Robson and Billy Jennings and the trio formed a bond both on and off the field.
“I made my debut as a sub against Leeds United at Upton Park and that was certainly quite daunting considering the players they had at the time,” he recalls.
“Billy Bremner, Alan Clarke, Peter Lorimer, they were a great team at the time, but we managed to beat them.”
Taylor made his first start at Stoke City on Boxing Day 1975, but it proved to be a tough one.
“I injured my medial ligaments chasing down Alan Hudson,” said Taylor, who ws out until just a week before the FA Cup quarter-final clash at Arsenal.
“We were playing Newcastle t home on a Friday night, I think because it was the Oxford v Cambridge boat race the next day, so I played that one and then the following Friday John called me over and said I was starting at Arsenal.”
It was the beginning of something special, but even that game at Highbury could have gone horribly wrong.
“On the day the terrible conditions were a great leveller and we had some luck too,” he recalled.
”John Radford went through and was brought down by Mervyn Day, but the referee didn’t give a penalty.
“Then Billy Jennings got into the box and the ball stuck in a puddle between him and Jimmy Rimmer. He managed to get it across and I finished from a couple of yards.”
It was a skill that was to become synonymous with Taylor in his time at Upton Park.
!I always prided myself on getting to the loose ball first in the box, that was my game.
“I was compared to Jimmy Greaves who was one of my heroes and I was really chuffed with that.
“Phil Parkes used to tease me and say I never scored a goal from outside the box, but that wasn’t quite true,” he smiled.
Taylor added a second and the sight of him wheeling away in celebration with his short covered in thick mud was one of the iconic images of the cup run.
Ipswich Town was next in the semi-final and after a cautious, dour first game which ended goalless, Taylor and West Ham came to the fore in the replay at Stamford Bridge.
“The replay was under the lights and with all the West Ham fans there it was a great atmosphere,” he remembered.
“I scored a similar one to the Arsenal goal from a yard or so out, but my second was from outside the box.
“Not sure what I was doing there as I think we had a corner, but I must have been looking for space and when it came to me, I hit it and it went in off the post.
“I think we had some luck that day as well as I think they had a penalty turned down and may have had a disallowed goal too and it was moments like that when you think perhaps your name is on the cup.”
Second division Fulham provided the opponents in the final and Lyall and the more experienced players like Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking and Frank Lampard were determined to play the excitement down as Tayor recalls.
“I remember we left Upton Park on the Wednesday and stayed in a hotel until the day of the match and that kept us away from all the media and build-up to the game.
“The final was always a great occasion and in those days it was the only club game live on the TV and the build-up started from about eight in the morning.
“There were cameras on the coach as we went to the ground, but it wasn’t until we were inside Wembley and we saw all the West Ham fans that I felt nervous.”
Alec Stock’s Fulham had Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery in their ranks and it was they who had the better of a goalless first half at Wembley.
“John said at half time just play as you are and it will come good and once we got in front in the second half there was only going to be one winner,” said Taylor.
He was the one who turned the tide, taking advantage of slips by Fulham keeper Peter Mellor to score two goals.
“They say that Mellor made mistakes on the day, but I still had to be in the right positions to take advantage, that was what I was good at,” he said.
It was an amazing transformation from Rochdale to match-winner at Wembley.
“I will never forget that day and it was also special to step on to the same pitch as Bobby Moore,” he said.
“I will always remember him coming up to me after the match and saying ‘well played, Alan,’ that meant so much to me and showed what a great man he was.”
Taylor helped West Ham to reach the European Cup Winners Cup final the following season, losing to Anderecht in the final, before he left for Norwich City in 1979.
He had a spell with Vancouver Whitecaps as well, but it will be his time at West Ham that he will be forever remembered for.
“Looking back, my time at West Ham was certainly the finest part of my career,” he said.
“Coming from playing in front of 1,500 people at Rochdale and then playing in the cup final was something I could only dream of and I managed to do it.”
Even at a sprightly 66, Taylor still keeps active. He had just managed an hour and a half walk before speaking to me on the phone as he struggles with the current lockdown.
He had a newsagents in Norwich for 16 years and now helps out another newsagent with the early morning papers three days a week.
He also works as a pallbearer at a local funeral directors.
“I like to keep active and I wouldn’t want to slow my wife down, she is always still on the go.”
It was 45 years ago, but Alan Taylor is still every inch the West Ham hero.
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