It’s not often we feature a defeat for the Lads in our daily historical deep dives, but this result stands out in the record books as unique for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s Sunderland's record loss in first-class men’s competition. And secondly, it’s the only time that an individual player has scored a double hattrick against us. When you add in the fact that that player is also the man whose hattrick for England won the 1966 World Cup Final, it’s a story we cannot avoid re-telling.
Sunderland hadn’t won a game away from home all season, but decent form at Roker Park meant that we came into this one in midtable. And, having beaten Forest 3-1 the week before, we travelled to West Ham hopeful of three points but came away with our tails between our legs after an “Academy of Football” side packed full of names to conjure with taught us a lesson.
After having set the early pace in the league, the Hammers were without a win in seven games and sat sixth in the table after 15 games, only two points ahead of us.
The last time out at Upton Park we’d come away with a one-all draw and, indeed, the Lads were unbeaten away in East London since the second world war having picked up a win and three draws in our last four visits to the Boleyn Ground.
However, Sunderland boss Alan Brown was wary of Ron Greenwood’s side, who had given us 1-5 drubbing at Roker Park a little over a year before, telling the Journal the day before the game:
The thing about West Ham is that they can adapt themseves to fit different situations. For instance, in our last match there we handled everything they offered before half-time but they quickly realised it and it was a different set up after the interval.
They gave us a real pasting but fortunately the defence played well and we managed a draw. There is no doubt that that are a very good side, and on their tight little ground they are even better.
Sunderland’s starting lineup included names like Jimmy Montgomery, Charlie Hurley, and Ian Porterfield, but Colin Todd had a broken nose and they were without Billy Hughes who picked up a thigh injury shortly before kick-off, leaving Ralph Brand to deputise at the head of the 2-3-2-3 formation.
The West Ham teamsheet reads like a list of legendary footballers; Billy Bonds, John Charles, Harry Redknapp, Trevor Brooking, and John Sissons took the field alongside World Cup heroes Martin Peters, Bobby Moore, and Geoff Hurst.
Redknapp almost put the home side one up in the opening moments of the game, but he got underneath his shot and the ball cleared not only the crossbar but also the stand. Nice one ‘arry.
But that was as good as it got for the Lads. After 20 minutes a flighted ball in from Peters on the left was met at the back post by the hand of Hurst and hit the back of the net, but the referee failed to spot the infringement and the Lads were unjustly one behind.
Their second came five minutes later, a piledriver of a free-kick from England skipper Moore that took a wicked deflection and flew past Monty from fully 30 yards out. On 33 minutes Hurst stooped again to score with his head after Bonds and Brooking had combined, and ten minutes later he had completed a first-half hattrick stooped again bang home in a Redknapp cross.
In the second period, the caret and blues turned on the style, Hurst chesting down a back-heal from Peters and volleying it home on 48 and then on 61 he grabbed his fifth and the home side’s sixth with a 20-yard “screamer” that left Sunderland’s keeper face down in the mud and longing for the final whistle.
The Sunderland defence was a shambles and the torture, however, was far from over. Brooking took advantage to break through on the right of the box and finished smartly before Hurst grabbed his double-hattrick, sliding in at the back post with 18 minutes still left on the clock.
Thankfully, West Ham eased off at that point, but it was still Sunderland’s record top-flight defeat. The verdict of the papers was that our midfield was no match for their “artisans”.
Nevertheless, we regained a little pride in the return fixture at Roker Park later in the season when Hurst’s seventh goal against us that season wasn’t enough to cancel out our scored two early goals. And the season wasn’t a disaster, with a 17th-placed finish.
However, it’s Sir Geoff who we’re celebrating today despite the fact that he admitted that his first had been scored illegally. Bob Cass, writing in The Journal the following Monday, purred with praise for the England superstar striker:
To be a football fan in the era of Geoff Hurst is a privilege, and to be able to witness his phenomenal six-goal soliloquy at Upton Park was an unforgettable honour.
If the present older generation mull over the majoic of Gallacher, or recall the heading of Dean, then surely Hurst will be one name that will be remembered for years to come.
Hurst crammed half a dozen of the best goals anyone could wish to see in 54 minutes, with a repertoire of heading, shooting, and, if you want to be catty, punching.
That, it can be said 54 years down the line, is an absolute certainty.