Can Hammers go one step further in Carling Cup?

Dave Evans looks at the history and the prospects for the Hammers in the Carling Cup.

FEW WOULD have tipped West Ham to topple holders Manchester United and book their place in the semi-final of the Carling Cup, but what chance do they have of going one step further?

Looking at the history books, it is likely to be a tough task for the Hammers.

In seven League Cup semi-finals between 1963 and 1990 they have won just two of them, and both of those victories have finished with final defeats.

One man who should be at the two-legged semi-final with Birmingham City, is West Ham co-chairman David Gold.

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Not only did he miss the 4-0 hammering of Manchester United after being stuck in traffic, he was also banned from St Andrews for the 2-2 league draw last November after a long-running dispute with the Birmingham board.

However, on learning of the semi-final showdown, the Midlanders released a statement confirming how welcome Gold will be for the second leg on Wednesday, January 26.

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The statement read: “Birmingham City would like to take this opportunity to confirm David Gold is welcome at the stadium.

“The Blues board look forward to seeing him and of course David Sullivan and all the members of the West Ham board at the game.”

The first leg, which takes place at Upton Park on Tuesday, January 11, will be screened live on BBC Two, but what chance of West Ham making it through?

They have played City twice in the League Cup, winning 3-2 at St Andrews in 1999 thanks to two goals in the last three minutes for Paul Kitson and Joe Cole after Steve Lomas had scored early.

Then in 1989 they played them in the second round, winning 2-1 in Birmingham with goals from Martin Allen and Stuart Slater, before drawing the second leg 1-1 – Julian Dicks getting on the scoresheet.

So that looks promising, but West Ham’s history in semi-finals is not so impressive, especially their last two efforts.

In 1989-90 they crashed to a humiliating 6-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic in the first leg, with the 3-0 win back at Upton Park nowhere near enough.

Luton Town arrived in 1988-89 and promptly won 3-0 at West Ham with Allen McKnight having something of a nightmare.

The Hatters 2-0 victory in the second leg was a mere formality.

West Ham did beat Coventry City to book a final date with Liverpool in 1981, coming from a 3-2 deficit to win the second leg 2-0 with goals from Paul Goddard and a last-minute winner from Jimmy Neighbour.

They trounced Cardiff City 10-3 on aggregate in 1965-66 before losing to West Brom in the final, but perhaps West Ham’s most famous League Cup semi-final was the marathon battle with Stoke City in 1971-72.

The Hammers won 2-1 at the Victoria Ground, but a 1-0 home defeat meant a replay at Hillsborough which finished 0-0.

The real drama came in the second replay at Old Trafford. Goalkeeper Bobby Ferguson was flattened and forced off and that meant Bobby Moore went in goal.

The Hammers legend actually saved a penalty, but he could do nothing about the rebound and West Ham were eventually beaten 3-2, with the Potters going on to win their one and only major trophy in the final.

History does not bode well then, but the Hammers have a slight psychological advantage over the Blues, having had the better of that 2-2 league draw last month.

Their manager, Alex McLeish, believes his team can win the competition.

“Why shouldn’t we go all the way?” he said. “We’re not favourites, Arsenal should win it on paper but we know what can happen in cup football.”

We do, results like last Tuesday’s can happen and West Ham fans will be dreaming of a repeat showing.

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