Liverpool were eliminated from the FA Cup in the next round with a 0-1 defeat to reigning League Champions Derby County. One week later, Liverpool returned to Upton Park to meet West Ham in the League. Liverpool stood one point from League leaders Man United in third, while West Ham were in sixth place though had won only one of their last five games. Goals for Kevin Keegan and a hat-trick for John Toshack gave Liverpool a 4-0 win, which lifted them to second in the table.
Liverpool finished the season as League champions by one point over QPR, after a 3-1 win at Wolves in their final game of the season. West Ham meanwhile sunk from leading the table after fifteen games, to finishing six points from the relegation zone in eighteenth place. By the time of the next meeting between the two sides in December of that year it was a top versus bottom affair, with Liverpool leading the table by one point over Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town. West Ham meanwhile propped up the table with just three wins from seventeen games.
Making his debut for West Ham that day would be former Arsenal veteran striker John Radford, who had fallen out of favour at Highbury with the emergence of Frank Stapleton and the signing of Malcolm MacDonald from Newcastle United. Radford aided a shock result for West Ham as they pulled off a surprise 2-0 win aided by goals from Trevor Brooking and Billy Jennings. The result lifted the Hammers from the bottom of the table, while Liverpool were dislodged from the top spot as Ipswich managed a 0-0 draw at home to Derby. The following day, Kevin Keegan would make a guest appearance on the Christmas special of LWT’s ‘The Big Match’, which would be hosted by pop star and Watford chairman Elton John. Here Keegan, in reference to nearly scoring an own goal the previous day, banters with Elton about ‘scoring at the wrong end’.
West Ham’s visit to Anfield that season came on the final Saturday of the season. Liverpool needed just one point to retain their League title and in doing so becoming the first side since Wolves in the late 1950s to win back to back titles. West Ham meanwhile hovered one point above the relegation zone in nineteenth place, with just one win from their last six games. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw, which secured a title for Liverpool, with the Reds hopeful of an unprecedented League, FA Cup and European Cup treble. The result however left West Ham above the relegation zone by a goal difference of +1 over Stoke City.
Forty eight hours on back at the Boleyn Ground, West Ham needed a win over a Man United side that would face Liverpool in the FA Cup Final the following Saturday. Liverpool that same evening would travel to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City, who were two points below West Ham at the foot of the table but with a better goal difference of +10 goals. Liverpool lost 1-2 away to Bristol City, however a 4-2 win for the Hammers secured their place in the top flight, with Stoke relegated as a result to a 0-1 defeat at Aston Villa. The relegation battle for those remaining ended in controversy three days later, as standing on level points would be Coventry and Bristol City who met that evening, as well as Sunderland away at Everton.
After losing a two goal lead, Bristol City pegged Coventry back to 2-2.
Liverpool were defeated in the FA Cup final to Man United the following Saturday, however four days later in Rome defeated West German side Borussia Moenchengladbach to become only the second English side to win the European Cup. Meanwhile, having escaped relegation in 1977, West Ham didn’t fare any better the following season. By the time of their visit to Anfield in December, the Hammers were third from bottom with one point from a possible eight in their last four games. Liverpool in contrast, with just one win in their last six games, fell to fifth and four points behind Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest at the top of the table.
Goals for Kenny Dalglish and David Fairclough gave Liverpool a 2-0 victory, which pushed them up to fourth. By the final Saturday of the 1977/78 season the following May, ahead of their trip to the Boleyn Ground Liverpool had already conceded the title to Nottingham Forest, who were nine points ahead with three games left to play. Liverpool however were looking for the result to avoid finishing beneath neighbours Everton for the first time in eight years. West Ham meanwhile, after a run of four wins from their last six games stood in eighteenth place and two points clear of the relegation zone. Goals for Terry McDermott and David Fairclough gave Liverpool a 2-0 win
Unfortunately for West Ham, the two sides between them and the relegation zone picked up points – QPR playing out a 0-0 draw at home to Leeds United, while Wolves beat Man United 2-1 at Molineux. As Wolves had overhauled West Ham on level points but with a +1 goal difference over the Hammers, the East London side who had completed their fixtures were left hoping for Wolves to lose both their two remaining games in hand by a margin that would cause Wolves’s goal difference to fall below that of the Hammers. Sadly for the Hammers, Wolves picked up full points from their remaining two games. The Hammers therefore found themselves outside of the top tier for the first time in twenty years.
There would be no quick return for the Hammers, who would spend the next three seasons in the old Second Division. In their absence, Liverpool would consolidate their domination - domestically and in Europe. Eleven days on from their victory at Upton Park, Liverpool would retain their European Cup with a 1-0 win over Bruges at Wembley. The Merseysiders would also win back to back League titles in 1978/79 and 1979/80. During their absence from the top tier, West Ham would win the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley in 1980. This therefore meant that the next meeting between the two sides would be the FA Charity Shield at Wembley in August 1980. A goal for Terry McDermott gave Liverpool a 1-0 victory to kick off the 1980/81 season.
The Hammers returned to Wembley again for the third time in under a year, to face Liverpool in the League Cup Final – at this point, the only domestic trophy that the club had never won. At the time, Liverpool found themselves in something of a mini-decline standing fourth and eight points behind League leaders Ipswich Town who had a game in hand. West Ham meanwhile, were running away with the old Second Division with a ten point lead at the top of the table and only nine games left to play. The game went into extra time goal-less, before Liverpool’s Alan Kennedy broke the deadlock with just two minutes of extra time left to play.
With just a seconds to hang on to the result, West Ham had the Liverpool goal under siege. West Ham’s Scouse centre half Alvin Martin got his head to a corner which was heading goal bound, before Liverpool’s Terry McDermott handled on the line (which would today be a sending off, but which Macca then went unpunished). Hammers penalty king Ray Stewart duly dispatched from the spot to equalise and with a 1-1 draw, secure a replay at Villa Park sixteen days later.
The replay would be the first League Cup Final that was to be shown live on British Television, covered by ITV. After ten minutes, West Ham took the lead with a goal from Paul Goddard. However two first half goals for Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen gave Liverpool a 2-1 win to secure their first ever League Cup triumph (though they would win the next three).
West Ham would recover to secure promotion back to the top flight with a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers at the Boleyn Ground the following Saturday. A 5-1 win away to Grimsby one week later secured the second tier title. By the season’s close the Hammers had a thirteen point gap over second place Notts County under a two points for a win system. Liverpool would come to dominate the English game during the 1980s, while West Ham remained in the top flight throughout the decade and even achieve their highest ever League finish. The story will continue from September 1981 onwards in Part Three, when the two sides meet next May.