Greatest day of my career was winning FA Cup for West Ham says legendary goalkeeper Parkes
- Credit: Archant
Back in 1976, goalkeeper Phil Parkes helped Queens Park Rangers to second place in the old First Division behind mighty Liverpool.
But it was West Ham’s FA Cup Final victory over Arsenal in 1980 that the number one cites as his greatest moment in football.
“It was the greatest achievement of my football career. without a doubt,” said Parkes, who will be 70 this year.
“As kids we used to play football every day of the year, except cup final day.
“That day would start on TV at nine in the morning and we were glued to it, it was a really big occasion.”
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This time it was Parkes who was in the limelight as he helped the happy Hammers to the trophy with a clean sheet against the Gunners.
“We were written off by the pundits who gave us no chance against one of the best teams in Europe, but we were a good side full of confidence and we showed that the next season when we ran away with the Division Two title,” he insisted.
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In reality, Second Division West Ham could easily have gone out in the third round when they travelled to a powerful West Brom side.
But Parkes was to prove the difference on the day.
“At The Hawthorns I had one of my best games for West Ham,” he said.
“I remember they absolutely battered us in the first half, it could have been 6-1, but somehow we went in 1-0 up.
“They had the likes of Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Gary Owen and Tony Brown, so they were a really good side.
“At half time I was standing next to Billy Bonds in the toilets and he said to me ‘I can’t believe what is happening out there, perhaps our name is on the cup’. It was just a throwaway line.
“They equalised with about 30 seconds to go and Regis handled it as he controlled the ball, I even got a hand to that shot as well.”
West Ham won 2-1 in the replay back at Upton Park, before putting out Orient 3-2 in the fourth round in what Parkes described as the hardest game they had in the run to Wembley.
Swansea City were the next victims which set John Lyall’s Hammers up for a quarter-final clash with First Division side Aston Villa.
“It was a terrible game, very tense and I didn’t really have anything to do,” said Parkes.
“Then in the last minute a corner came over and Ken McNaught handled the ball like a goalkeeper and everyone went silent.
“I had no idea why he did it, perhaps he had backed West Ham to win,” he laughed.
“But Ray Stewart didn’t miss many penalties and he made no mistake.”
That pitted the Hammers against their third Division One opponents in Everton in the semi-final.
“Everyone wanted to play us in the last four, but we were happy to take on Everton and let Arsenal and Liverpool battle it out among themselves,” said Parkes.
“The two Everton games were really tense ones and we were evenly matched.
“I made a couple of good saves I remember, but the crucial moment was when Brian Kidd got sent off for fighting with Ray Stewart.
“I think these days both players would have been sent off, but this was just Brian and it did make a difference.”
After a 1-1 draw in the first game, the replay at Elland Road ended in West Ham’s favour when full-back Frank Lampard found himself in the box to head the winner.
“I still have no idea what Frank Lampard was doing in the area for the winner,” smiled Parkesy.
“All I can think of is that he was too knackered to run back!”
And so to the final on a blisteringly hot day at Wembley and it was a tactical masterstroke from manager Lyall that was to tip the balance in West Ham’s favour.
Parkes recalled: “About two hours before the final, John pulled Stuart Pearson aside and said he wanted him to play a bit deeper, in the hole if you like, with ‘Crossy’ up front on his own and it worked a treat.
“Don Howe was the so-called master tactician at the time for Arsenal, but he couldn’t work it out and John had the advantage over him that day.”
West Ham scored early through Trevor Brooking’s header for what proved the winning goal on the day, while at the other end, it was a quiet day for the keeper.
“They had players like Frank Stapleton and Alan Sunderland, Liam Brady and Brian Talbot, but the thing about the game is just how much we controlled it,” added Parkes.
“I had to make just two saves in the match. The most difficult one was from Graham Rix.
“He hit it with the outside of his boot and I was wondering whether it was going to go in. But it started to curl into the corner and I managed to get the faintest of touches on it and it still only just went past the post.
“The other one was from Talbot’s free-kick which was a bit easier. I managed to hold on to it, though today a goalkeeper would probably punch it clear.”
And that was it, West Ham had won the FA Cup and the celebrations started.
“I remember ‘Bonzo’ saying to all of us, take everything in and remember it,” he said.
“He said the 1975 Final had just flown by and he woke up the next day and couldn’t remember any of it. It went like a whirl and probably the only quiet moment was the game itself.”
Celebrations continued the next day as West Ham fans came out in their thousands in Newham to salute their heroes.
“We went on the coach through the streets and it was unbelievable,” said Parkes.
“There were just people everywhere, coming from all directions, we had never seen anything like it.
“We were sitting on the roof of the coach waving to the fans. Health and safety would have had a field day!
“West Ham have got to the final again and won the play-offs, but it is a shame that they have never been able to witness something like this again.
“People still come up to me and say things like ‘I was 10 at the time and not even a West Ham fan, but my dad took me to that final and I have supported the team ever since’.
“That’s great to hear and I was proud to be a part of that cup run and that cup win.”