The last side from below the top flight to win the FA Cup, the 1980 West Ham team made themselves legends by surprising everyone to beat Arsenal at Wembley. The third FA Cup victory in the Hammers history was the most unexpected. In the build-up to the final the East Londoners had fallen out of the race for promotion to the First Division and the FA Cup was their only chance to salvage the season.
But their chances were not looking good. Written off before the game, many believed the epic semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United was a more fitting showpiece for Wembley. Arsenal had finished fourth in the First Division and had a Cup Winners Cup final to look forward to after Wembley, a far cry from West Ham's seventh-placed finish in the league below. No-one better signified the gulf between the two sides than Paul Allen. At the time Allen was 17 and the youngest player ever to play at a Wembley final but like the rest of his team-mates showed no nerves on the biggest of stages. As if playing in the final was not enough, Allen was given the job of marking Arsenal's talisman – Liam Brady.
West Ham boss John Lyall knew Arsenal would be dangerous and set out to frustrate them with five across the middle – including Allen following Brady around the pitch. His energetic display set the tone for a heroic performance from the Hammers which was capped off with a real collector's item – a headed goal from Trevor Brooking. An enterprising run and cross from Alan Devonshire on the left found its way to Stuart Pearson, whose cross-cum-shot was turned in by Brooking.
The game was just 13 minutes old when Brooking's header hit the net leaving West Ham a long time to defend their slender lead on what was a blistering hot day. Arsenal came close but some heroics from Phil Parkes in the West Ham goal and a superb defensive performance kept them at bay.
Allen even had the chance to cap his memorable day with a goal. Through on Pat Jennings' goal the youngster hesitated and was tackled by Willie Young. Allen later said of that moment: “As I got closer to the goal, it seemed to get smaller and smaller and Pat Jennings in goal got bigger and bigger.”
As it turned out West Ham did not need a second goal and climbed those famous Wembley stairs as FA Cup winners for the third time in their history and Lyall's second as manager. The Hammers had overcome Everton and Aston Villa among others to reach the final – an incredible feat for a team outside the top flight and one unlikely to be repeated for some time.
The winning 1980 FA Cup final team:
4 Bonds (c)
Substitute: 12 Brush
Manager: John Lyall