BOOK REVIEW - JACK BIRKETT
BRING TO MIND the glorious West Ham team of the mid-sixties and the names just trip off the tongue, WRITES DAVE EVANS. Moore, Hurst, Peters, Byrne, Brown, Bond are all household names – legends of Upton Park – but there were other members of that squad t
BRING TO MIND the glorious West Ham team of the mid-sixties and the names just trip off the tongue, WRITES DAVE EVANS.
Moore, Hurst, Peters, Byrne, Brown, Bond are all household names - legends of Upton Park - but there were other members of that squad that played roles just as vital.
Left back Jack Burkett is one of them. He came through the ranks at West Ham, broke into the team when John Lyall's career was ended by injury and played in both the winning FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup teams that turned the Hammers into a household name.
A rainforest of stories about those heady days have already bombarded West Ham fans over the years, but Burkett's tale - The Jack Burkett Story, written by local author Terry Roper - is the inside track, the story the way the players saw it and it is a fascinating tale.
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Burkett's rise to prominence coincided with the emergence of Ron Greenwood, but his West Ham story begins earlier than that with a condemnation of the youth structure at Spurs, as well as the influence of West Ham scout Wally St Pier and the manager of the time, Ted Fenton.
But it is the period under Greenwood which is most revealing for West Ham fans.
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What did the players know of Bobby Moore's mystery illness in the early sixties? How important was West Ham's tour to the United States in the summer of 1963? What did Burkett really think of Greenwood as a man-manager?
Burkett chronicles the glorious two years for the Hammers in the sixties, but also the consequent frustrations as the squad never fulfilled the huge expectations on them.
He offers an enticing explanation as to why West Ham's demise came so quickly and presents an alternative strategy, which he believes would have kept the Hammers at the top of the tree.
Jack left the club in 1968 to join Charlton and after his departure, football took him to all parts of the world.
It becomes an interesting account of a jobbing player and coach which takes him to Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to witness a beheading, to Ireland at the height of the troubles, and to Southend United with Bobby Moore at the height of theirs.
Burkett eventually ended up helping young professionals in his job at the PFA, enabling him to give something back to the game he has loved so much.
Roper delivers Burkett's story clearly and with delicacy, and although he does pepper the story with little outbursts against WAGS, Prague stag parties and the England caps of Phil Neville, to name but a few, these Daily Mail-type outbursts can be tolerated amid another fascinating story on the Hammers.
It appears this is a story that Burkett was eager to tell, you will find out why on reading the book, and it proves a must-read for all Hammers fans - a perfect gift for Christmas for any West Ham supporter.
How to order: You can order directly from the publisher and save �3 on the cover price of �15.
Order online at www.ex-hammers.com, phone the credit card hotline on 01708 744333 or send a cheque payable to Football World, to 103 Douglas Road, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 1AW.