Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Geoff Pike - An unsung hero!
Kicking off a series looking at former Hammers, I decided to run with Geoff first because he is a player who is easily overlooked. In fact, younger fans might not know much about him. The greats are rightfully lauded and any fan worth the title will know about the brilliance of Brooking, the steel of Bonds, the predatory instincts of Cottee, the power of Hurst, the intelligence of Peters, the mastery of Moore...but the likes of Geoff Pike fade into the background, barely outlined character sketches behind the star performers.
Geoff made his debut as long ago as March 1976, coming on as a sub in a 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham City. Not the most auspicious of beginnings perhaps but his first start was in a game we Hammers remember with a little more relish, a 5-3 home victory over Tottenham no less! The side that day brings back so many memories for guys of my age and, because of two names, has a strong link with recent events: Day; Bonds; Lampard; Curbishley; Lock; Taylor; Devonshire; Pike; Jennings; Brooking; Pop Robson. How is that for a team of West Ham cult figures?
It is typical of Pike that his name would probably be the last that anybody would come up with if asked to name the side that day. You can imagine the discussion in the pub. Brooking and Devonshire of course. And Bonzo! Lampard would have been at left back, Lampard was always at left back, and Taylor wearing the number 5. Pop Robson up top presumably and you can bet your life he scored! What about alongside Taylor? 76-77? Moore was gone. Kevin Lock perhaps? In goal? Guess it would have been Merv. Alongside Robson? Tough one. Was it Cross? Or the other Robson? Gould was gone wasn't he? How about Billy Jennings? And midfield? Curbishley? Yes, thought so. But who else? No don't tell me, it's bugging me this one. Paddon? Holland? Bonds in midfield perhaps...Pike? Really? That early!
Pike was one of those players. He started in 1976 and played until 1987 and it is a fair bet that, throughout that era, his name would be one of the last somebody would come up with if asked to nominate the team for any individual game. He was the Mullins of his age, a bits and pieces player who did his job with the minium of fuss and allowed others with more ability to play around him. Curbishley flounced off in a huff because he wasn't given the starring role in our midfield, but Pikey was happy to play second fiddle, knitting the midfield together as Devonshire went on mazey runs, Brooking bemused the opposition, Ward skinned a left back, Dickens floated in and out of the game, Keen dropped a shoulder and dinked in a pass, Ince powered through a game, Paul Allen shed his nappies, Liam Brady graced Upton Park and Patsy Holland danced past a marker. As that list shows, not only did he knit together the midfield, he also knits together eras, crossing over generations that link Ferguson to Parkes via Day, Pop Robson to Cottee & McAvennie, via Goddard, Lock and Taylor to Tony Gale & Martin via Billy Bonds. Look at that team against Tottenham and the one that took the field in Pikey's last game, and only Billy Bonds survives. But Billy Bonds played in every game West Ham ever played didn't he?
Did Pikey play in the Cup Final victory over Arsenal? Of course he did! But the midfielders that most remember from that day are Brooking, Devonshire and Baby Faced Allen. But Pikey was there, Pikey was always there, it's just that not a lot of people noticed. Well, not a lot of people but one very good judge did. Commentating on the Final for ITV, one Brian Clough picked out Pike as the key man in the West Ham side! Was Pikey there in the two League Cup Final games against Liverpool? You bet he was, but not everybody remembers. Was Pikey in the team when we finished third in the old First Division? He started 10 games and was in the team when we beat Chelsea 4-0 at the Bridge and the Mancs 2-1 at Upton Park.
My fondest memory of Geoff Pike goes back to the 16th of May, 1977. We went in to the final game of the season needing to win to avoid relegation - and the opposition? Only Manchester United! The team that day read: Day: Bonds; Lampard; Pike; Taylor; McGiven; Radford; Pop Robson; Devonshire; Brooking; Taylor. We won, 4-2, preserving our top flight status! And the scorers? Well Pop Robson of course! He got two! And wasn't that when Frank Lampard scored? That's right! And the other scorer? Hang on, it will come to me...Brooking? Devonshire? Taylor? Nope. Step forward and take a bow Geoff Pike, a great club servant!
Any personal memories of Geoff Pike? Would be great to hear them!
Posted by Hammersfan at 17:38