here are few walking the corridors at West Ham who have tasted European glory, but Brian Dear is an exception.
Dear, 79, was part of the historic Hammers side that triumphed in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, lifting the trophy in 1965 alongside Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst.
The former forward, whose career owed so much to the run to the Wembley final that year, is still a firm fixture at the London Stadium and will be watching on this evening, hoping West Ham can overturn a one-goal deficit against Sevilla in order that, come May, he may have company in his exclusive group.
“It is going to be tough,” Dear tells Standard Sport. “It would be great for the club, it puts you high up on a pedestal. I’d love them to do well in it. I’ve got mine and I’ve got nothing against them getting more.”
Nights such as this evening can make careers at a club like West Ham – and Dear is a prime example.
Nicknamed ‘Stag’, Dear was on the fringes of Ron Greenwood’s squad as they geared up for the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. But fortune and fate work in funny ways.
“It was a funny old time for me,” says Dear. “I went there when I was 15 in May ’59 but I never played a lot of League games up until the mid-‘60s.
“I was on the periphery of the squad at the time and it wasn’t until the last 15 games of the season [that I got going]. They should have played Lausanne and it was cancelled because of snow all over the pitch, so there was no game and it was moved to the following week.
“In that week, Budgie [Johnny Byrne] played for England and I think he got a knock. Out of the blue on the Saturday, we’re playing Sunderland at home and, I don’t know why he did it, but Ron said, ‘I’m going to play you tomorrow, Stag, and give Budge a rest.'”
West Ham lost at Sunderland but for Dear, who scored twice in a 3-2 defeat, it was a pivotal moment. There was an injury to Eddie Bovington, which further advanced Dear’s case for a trip abroad.
“We were in the bath after and Ron said, ‘Have you got a passport? You’re coming with us tomorrow.’ We went there and I scored the first goal, we won 2-1 and it all took off from there.
“I scored two against them in the home tie and then over Easter, against West Brom, I scored five goals in 20 minutes – then Budgie got injured in an England game so I ended up in the side up front with Geoff. I got about 14 goals in the last 15 games, sparked through that European run.”
Dear’s sensational run of form meant he kept his place alongside Hurst for the final against German side 1860 Munich, played in front of almost 100,000 people at Wembley – where the Hammers had lifted the FA Cup the year before.
A brace from Alan Sealey that day meant that Dear’s disallowed goal did not cost Greenwood’s side and history was made, though perhaps not celebrated in the manner you might think.
“We went upstairs, had a cup of tea and a sandwich and that was it,” says Dear. “Years later I was watching a programme with a chap on who had a load of football memorabilia and it was West Ham stuff. And I thought I recognised him. In amongst it all he had a pound note.
“They asked what it was all about. He said that after the game he was standing in the crowd having some beers and all of a sudden this note came floating down from the sky above.
“He said he looked up and it was me saying, ‘Go and have a beer on us’. We were walking above them to go upstairs and I thought I’d drop it down. We then got in the coach and back to the ground.”
There was time for a celebratory dinner the following week, where the squad were all presented with commemorative watches. Many have since sold theirs but Dear, whose medal from the day was stolen in a burglary, still keeps hold of his and will be wearing it at the London Stadium tonight – something, he says, to show off to the younger generations of Hammers fans when they give him a quizzical look.
“I still wear the watch from time to time when I go to the games and do the hospitality,” says Dear. “When the 30-year-olds are giving me a look I think, ‘Hey, I’ve got something up my sleeve, have a look at this.’
“There are a lot of people, the younger elements, who haven’t seen that excitement of getting into Europe and that is what has been good about it.”