West Ham of the 1960s was a fun side to watch. They had members of the England National team that had won the World Cup, and West Ham was winning cups. When you see a big team winning, sometimes you see a historic loss, and Mansfield was the type of club for that. Mansfield has been a club in the lower regions of the pyramid for most of their life. This should have been a win for the Hammers.
Mansfield Town should have been in the Fourth Division for the 1968/69 season after manager Tommy Eggleston’s rebuilding failed. However, an illegal payment scandal at Peterborough was giving a points deduction that sent the Posh down and saved Mansfield. Eggleston was a player on the fringes of the Derby Country 1946 cup winning side before moving into coaching in the fifties with Sheffield Wednesday. This is where he teamed up with Harry Catterick for the first time. Eggleston followed Catterick to Everton, where they won the title in 1963, and the FA Cup three years later. Following the cup win Eggleston took over at Field Mill.
The Field Mill club paid seven thousand pounds to Nottingham Forest for Johnny Quigley, who scored a goal in the 1959 FA Cup final which the club won. Dave Hollins, a goalkeeper, came from Newcastle, Nick Sharkey at Sunderland, Bob Ledger was at Oldham, and Jimmy Goodfellow came in from Leicester City. Sandy Pate, Mick Hopkinson, and Dudley Roberts were all signed from lower league sides, and Stuart Boam came from the club’s reserve side. That was to be the start of the rebuilding of the side.
The season started out well, three wins out of four. Then it went downhill from there, just one win in twelve games from September to November, putting them in a relegation battle. In the FA Cup, Mansfield beat Tow Law Town, Rotherham, Sheffield United, and Southend to set up the meeting with West Ham.
Since England’s World Cup win in 1966, West Ham had been jokingly referred to as the World Cup winners, as they had Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, and Martin Peters. In the mid sixties the club had seen their greatest era, winning the 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup. Hammers manager Ron Greenwood combined the experience of the club with promising youth players like Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds, and Harry Redknapp to have an exciting side.
The Hammers had prepared to make the trip to the East Midlands no less than five times, and they were given word that the game was off. When they did, it was on the back of a poor run of form in the league, having dropped seven games in the league. It dropped them to seventh in the league. They however did have two cup wins over Second Division clubs which earned them a trip to Field Mill. Many supporters of West Ham didn’t make the trip to Nottinghamshire, mostly doing the postponements, midweek kick off, and snow still laying on the ground. Added to that the pitch had been heavily rolled, and sanded to make it playable.
The first fifteen minutes West Ham seemed to cope with the conditions well. They started off well, as Harry Redknapp should have given them the lead when he was put through on goal only to fire the ball wildly off target, sending the ball sailing out of the ground. Next Geoff Hurst burst through and pulled off the same thing. The pitch condition started to crumble as West Ham’s passing game started to suffer, and Mansfield’s direct approach started to pay off. With twenty two minutes gone Bob Ledger, Jimmy Goodfellow, and Nick Sharkey profited West Ham’s wasteful start to carve up West Ham laying in a perfect ball for Dudley Roberts to tap home from close range.
Now with West Ham’s heads down, all the first division needed was Mansfield to fall apart and they could pounce. Unfortunately, it was their own goalkeeper who gifted the next goal, as an usually sound Bobby Ferguson gifted Mansfield the next goal. Jimmy Goodfellow’s cross was too close to Ferguson, who decided to punch clear instead of catch it. Ferguson’s punch was good enough as it fell to the foot of Ray Kelley for the second goal.
Now West Ham were panicking, they needed to get a goal before the break. Brooking burst through a pack of Mansfield only to be stopped on his last gasp shot on Hollins goal. One would think that coming out of the break the Hammers would be the first to be on the front foot. But it was Mansfield who forced two corners right from the off. Sharkley was gifted another good goal from a Ferguson miss to hit another goal.
This put the Hammers further in the dumps, penalty appeals were waved away and even Bobby Moore came close to a goal but missed. And as time eclipsed Bonds put in a nasty foul on Mick Hopkinson. After the Mansfield win was final, Ron Greenwood being the gentleman, he refused to blame his goalkeeper for the mistakes instead praised Mansfield for their play. Manfield didn’t go any further as a young Peter Shilton stopped the progress for Leicester City.
Most of the Mansfield team was gone, including the coach by the 1970s with the exception of fan favorite Dudley Roberts. He left for Scunthorpe in 1974. The West Ham players stuck around for a bit, a bunch ended up chasing money in the States in the North American Soccer League. Geoff Hurst managed Chelsea for a bit, Trevor Booking became an administrator, and Harry Redknapp became a very good manager.