The Truth About Blackpool
There have been many stories about what happened the night before the FA Cup game against Blackpool but the version I am going to give is the truth as best as I can see.
It was New Years Day and West Ham were due to play Blackpool in the third round of the FA Cup in 1971. As was the habit of the times the players travelled up to Blackpool on the train and stayed overnight in the Imperial Hotel. The players arrived at 5pm and had dinner at 7:30pm. The weather was freezing and the general consensus was that the game would be called off, as the pitch would be frozen.
Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Brian "stag" Dear and a very young Clyde Best were sat chatting to two cameramen who were in Blackpool to film the game for the BBC until about 11pm when the cameramen said that they were going on to Brian London's club which was not far from the hotel. Bobby had met Brian London a few times and would have enjoyed meeting his old friend again.
On any other day that would have been the end of the evening but the cameramen invited the players to go along with them. The players were not going to go but two taxis turned up to take the cameramen instead of the one that had been ordered. This was the final straw and the players took the spare taxi and went along.
Now lets get this into perspective. The players had not been drinking heavily at all and in fact Clyde Best had not had a drop of alcohol. It is also unfair to judge the players of the 70's on the standards of today as, like it or not, things were different then. Moore, Greaves and Dear had about 4 pints each plus a glass or two of wine with their meal. They returned to the hotel and were in bed by 1:30 am where they stayed until 10 am the following morning. Over a 6-hour period this was not excessive at all. Bobby Moore has said that he would not allow himself or any player in his company to drink to an extent that it would have impaired his ability to play, as that would have been unprofessional.
The day of the game came and the players felt no worse for their evening. The game was surprisingly on despite the state of the pitch and Blackpool were really up for this one. Blackpool ran out 4 - 0 victors but the performance of West Ham was the problem, they were terrible. Of the 4 players that went out that evening only Greaves and Moore were actually playing although Dear was on the bench.
On the Monday morning an irate fan arrived at Ron Greenwood's office complaining that he had seen the players out drinking the night of the game. Normally Greenwood would not have had any time for tale telling supporters but by this time the press had got wind of the story and all sorts of stories were circulating. Greenwood felt he had to name the guilty players to protect the innocent ones. The problem was compounded by the fact that Bobby Moore was the person to be surprised by the This Is Your Life programme and to save any embarrasment for the BBC he promised not to reveal the names of the players until after the programme had been screened. Stories of a wild party involving womanising and drunkenness were now in the papers all of which was plainly untrue.
The guilty players were fined a week's wages and dropped for 2 games except for Clyde Best who was considered less culpable than the older players. This was about the lowest point in Bobby's West Ham career. To understand why the players felt hard done by you just have to look at Jimmy Greaves debut against Manchester City where by his own admission Greavsie had had one more than he should and woke up feeling a little unwell to say the least. The game was played with Jimmy playing a blinder and scoring twice in a 5 - 1 victory.
As I said you cannot judge players of 30+ years ago on the fitness standards of today, as they are just not comparable. Steak dinners were the favoured food for athletes of the day and many players smoked neither of these are considered "helpful" to the modern day players fitness.