The 2015/16 season marks the 30th anniversary of the greatest season of West Ham United’s history, famously known as ‘the Boys of ’86’.
Despite a disappointing start to the season which saw John Lyall’s men win just one of their opening seven fixtures, the Hammers went on a stunning unbeaten run to make themselves real title contenders. The Irons went 18 games without defeat – still a club record to this day – and led by skipper Alvin Martin, the Hammers were only stopped from making history by the weather.
A fixture build-up towards the climax of the season meant the East End club found themselves with five games in hand over the leaders Liverpool at the end of March, and with their dreams well and truly alive and kicking. Ultimately, though, their hectic schedule brought an end to their dreams, falling just four points short of the title come the end of the season, finishing in a club-high of third place.
Players and pundits alike around that time were in agreement that the Irons were the best side in that league, playing an expansive brand of football that was, at the time, unique. Back in the 80s, football was very different; it was tougher and rougher than ever before both on the pitch and off it. But even on the quagmire pitches under Lyall, the club played wonderful passing football, which won over many an opposition fan.
In a piece done by the brilliant Bianca Westwood for Sky Sports News last year, Phil Parkes, the Hammers’ stopper, admitted that by the end of the season the side were both mentally and physically drained, which finally ended their title hopes despite their valiant efforts.
Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie were the kings of the Boleyn that season sharing an incredible 46 goals between them, a feat even more impressive considering the front line of West Ham struggle to muster 20 goals between them nowadays.
Now, 30 years on, the current crop has us dreaming again. 21 games in and Slaven Bilic’s men sit just a point behind Tottenham Hotspur who are in the final Champions League spot.
The Hammers’ latest win, 3-1 over Bournemouth, stretched their current unbeaten run to eight and their climb up the table continued, leapfrogging Manchester United into fifth.
And in this strange old season, which has seen Chelsea lumbering in the lower echelons of the Premier League and Leicester lording it up at the top end of the table, surely this is as good a chance as any for West Ham United to re-enter the history books.
It is staggering to think that the West Ham faithful are dreaming of Champions League football after the dire times we endured under Avram Grant. I still have nightmares of Wayne Bridge marauding his way down that left wing.
But after a period of progression under Sam Allardyce, who must take some of the credit in helping us to get to where we are today, and now Slaven Bilic who has really taken us onto the next level, the Hammers must believe they can achieve the impossible and gatecrash the ‘big four’ party.
With a Frenchman and an Argentine ruling the roost at the Boleyn these days, times are very much different to those in the 80s, where a very much English dominated side nearly did the impossible. With Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini running the show, the Irons have a genuine chance of heroism as they leave their famous old home. Now is the time to grab this chance by the horns.
The club cannot rest on its laurels, this club must be ambitious, otherwise what is the point? A look in the history books will tell you that goals bring you titles and goals bring you rewards. With Andy Carroll, now set to miss at least a month through injury, and Diafra Sakho still missing, the Hammers must invest in a striker this window to stand any chance of grabbing this opportunity.
We may well be skint – well that’s what David Gold and Sullivan keep telling us – but digging deep will reap the rewards in the long run. Imagine if we had a partnership like Cottee/McAvennie today – we’d be top of the league I am sure.
There are many comparisons you can make between the two sides, on the pitch Bilic and his coaching staff has us playing some of the best football I have seen in my 18 years of supporting the club, and it can be likened to that of Lyall’s side. Although I am sure the boys of ’86 will tell you it is far easier to play free-flowing football on these carpet like pitches of today and to be fair, they would have a point.
The key question is, can this current crop ensure our dreams don’t fade and die? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain it is going to be a lot of fun finding out.
Come on you Irons!