The 83rd FA Cup final took place at Wembley Stadium on 2nd May 1964 between West Ham United and Preston North End. The Hammers, captained by Bobby Moore and managed by Ron Greenwood has seen off Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient – although through a replay, Swindon and Burnley in the previous rounds to earn a semi final place against Manchester United at Hillsborough on 14th March of that year. The Hammers first semi final appearance for 31 years.
The Hammers came away 3-1 winners to set up the final with Preston North End, who had beaten Swansea Town in the other semi final at Villa Park. In front of a 65,000 crowd the Hammers were the underdogs playing against the stars of Man United that included George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. Much has been said about the state of the pitch for the game with the headline ‘Boyce is Hero of Cup Mudbath’, but no one can argue with Boyce’s performance and of the Hammers defence against the Division 1 Champions, scoring his only brace for the club.
Ronnie Boyce had put the Hammers 2-0 before Denis Law gave Manchester a life line by scoring against Jim Standen, whom he had collided with earlier. But with West Ham pouring forward, the match was sealed through a Geoff Hurst goal to take them through to the final against Preston North End. Greenwood booked the team a dinning carriage for the return journey on the train to London, but for plenty of Hammers fan to crowd in a join them. Sir Geoff Hurst recalls “My best memory of the successful FA Cup run was beating Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final at Hillsborough.”
But the Hammers, now favourites to win against second Division Preston North End, found themselves behind twice during an exciting match played out in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. 10mins in Preston went ahead after a short passing move between Kendall and Lawton that found Dawson who put in a low cross that Standen fumbled for winger Doug Holden to have an easy shot on goal. It was a deserved lead but lasted just a minute and with the Hammers pressing for an equaliser saw a great one two between Sissons and Budgie Byrne. Sissons collected the pass and fires a shot from inside the Preston penalty area beyond the diving Alan Kelly to make it 1-1.
But Dawson was to gain the advantage for Preston just before the break from a Wilson corner that left both Standen and Brown stranded as Dawson fired in a header to make it 2-1. The second Division side were clearly pushing for a win and we can only imagine what the changing room was like for the West Ham players as Greenwood looked to send them out for the second half for an historic victory.
52 minutes into the match and the Hammers are back on level terms as Bradbrook’s right wing corner for Brown to out jump Dawson and head the ball on to Hurst, whose own looping header hits the crossbar and rebounds off keeper Kelly and rolls in to the net to make it 2-2. This sets up a tense finale to the game where the next goal would settle the game.
On 90 minutes, the match looking as if it will go to extra time, saw the Hammers players pushed for a winner, despite their tired legs. Standen’s goal kick found Hurst in the Preston North End half, taking the ball diagonally Hurst finds Brabrook who sent in an absolutely perfect cross to the far post where Boyce timed his run to meet the ball and head in the winning goal.
Hurst again recalls “Ronnie Boyce, one of our midfielders, who rarely scored, got two in the semi-final and the winner in the Final against Preston North End. I got the equaliser in the Final to make it 2-2, when the ball hit the bar and crept over the line. A rehearsal for what was to happen two years later back at Wembley!”
West Ham’s first FA Cup final win was commemorated with a parade with the streets lined with celebrating fans as an open topped coach carried the players through Plaistow via Balam Street, along Barking Road, up High Street North, then Romford Road before turning into Green Street and on to the Boleyn Ground.
The Hammers were to return to Wembley the following year to play 1860 Munich in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup securing a 2-0 victory.
There are plenty of excellent images form this game but this is also a great image of Hurst scoring the equaliser at Wembley. There must have been several shots of this, but I really like how Geoff’s head is visible beyond the hand of the defenders as he comes back down from rising above everyone. His eyes fixed on where the ball is going. Another great composition as you have three bands running across the frame – the stadium at the top packed with fans, the players scattered across the frame and the pitch below that balances well with the stadium. The balls creates that visual dynamic and you just know that it is goal bound without seeing the goal posts. Great shot that captures that split second moment before the crowd cheer and the players celebrate a few seconds later.
You can watch highlights of the match here: