West Ham legend Ronnie ‘Ticker’ Boyce on scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup final, playing with England’s 1966 World Cup winners and life in rural Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 March 2017
Copyright: Archant 2017
It’s been 45 years since Ronnie Boyce hung up his boots for the final time.
But, sitting at his home in Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, the 74-year-old talks about some of his legendary encounters with such clarity and enthusiasm, it is as if they were played last week.
Boyce earned the nickname ‘Ticker’ for his role in the heart of the midfield in a West Ham team which featured England’s 1966 World Cup winning heroes Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters.
He achieved legendary status amongst West Ham fans in his own right during his 342 appearances for the club.
Boyce scored the winning goal in the 1964 FA Cup final, a last-minute header in a 3-2 victory over Preston North End, and won the European Cup Winners Cup the following year when the Hammers beat TSV Munich 1860 2-0 at Wembley Stadium.
He also scored what must be considered one of the best goals in West Ham’s history - a 40-yard volley against Manchester City in 1970.
How it all began
Boyce grew up in East Ham, just a couple of miles from West Ham’s Upton Park ground.
His talent was spotted at junior school and he was selected for the district side.
Boyce went on to play for England schoolboys and started training with West Ham from the age of 14.
At 17 he signed a contract with the only professional club he would ever play for.
His first team debut was a Southern Floodlight Cup game against Millwall on October 13, 1959.
His first Football League game was more than a year later, on October 22, 1960 - a 5-2 home win against Preston North End.
Boyce said: “I was such a nervous, weepy kid. I would rather hide in the garden than go to a party. My dad had to push me, get me in the car and just make me get on with it. Things could have been so different if it wasn’t for my dad. I owe a lot to him.”
His nerves stayed with him throughout his career.
He said: “I could never sleep on the night before a game and I always got to the ground about an hour before everyone else, so I could get myself right.
“Once the whistle blew I was always fine.”
Playing in the World Cup winning West Ham side
While some players at the top tier of English football earn more than £100,000 a week these days, Boyce picked up a weekly salary of £12 after he signed his first West Ham contract and often played on pitches which resembled mud baths.
Boyce, who smoked during his playing days, and drank with team mates in the local pub after games, said: “It’s not as bad as it sounds. You could buy a packet of cigarettes for 30p back then.
“The worst pitch I played on was Hillsborough in the 1964 FA Cup semi-final, with mud up to our ankles. But we didn’t mind.
“It was a completely different time and I loved playing football in that era.
“It was more about enjoyment and there was less pressure than there is nowadays.
“I wouldn’t mind having my time again now, with all the money in today’s game, but I enjoyed every minute of my time on the pitch and feel lucky to have played so many games for a great club like West Ham, my hometown team.”
Boyce scored two goals in that 1964 semi-final against a Manchester United team featuring George Best, Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton.
He said his winning goal in the final was the proudest moment in his career and the European Cup Winners Cup final, the following year, was the best game he ever played in.
He said: “They had a team full of internationals and we really had to raise our game. It was a brilliant match, with great passing and end to end football - without doubt the best game I ever played in.”
Boyce played in what has become known as the ‘World Cup winning West Ham team’ alongside England’s 1966 heroes Geoff Hurst, who was later his best man, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters. He rates all three as the best players he ever played with, along with Billy Bonds.
He said: “I remember them coming back in for pre-season training after the World Cup with big smiles on their faces but they were quickly back into training and getting on with it. They were all very humble guys, with no ego about them and it was a pleasure to play alongside them.”
After retiring as a player, Boyce became a key member of the West Ham coaching staff under John Lyall, during a period when the club won the FA Cup in 1975 and 1980.
He unwittingly took over as caretaker manager for one game in February, 1990.
Boyce said: “John Lyle had left the club and Lou Macari came in but had some problems and moved on. Billy Bonds and I had been taking training all week.
“Then one day, 30 to 40 press guys turned up and I was told I was the manager and had to give a press conference.
“We drew 0-0 with Swindon and that was the end of my managerial career.
“I never saw myself as a manager, I would worry too much and never get any sleep.”
Boyce worked as West Ham’s chief scout and did some part-time scouting for Millwall before retiring from football and moving to Norfolk in 2003.
Life after football
Living in Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, with his wife Dawn, Boyce said he loves the peace and quiet of life in rural Norfolk.
His two sons Gary and Tony and three grandsons, Ross, Ben and Jack live nearby.
Boyce said: “We’d been up here on holiday several times and just love it here.
“We’ve got a lot of friends here and the locals are great.
“I spend a lot of time out in the garden, having trips out to Norwich, Cromer and other places, spending time with family and enjoying the peace and quiet.”
Boyce has enjoyed watching local football, with his three grandsons all having played village football in Norfolk. Ben also used to play for Fakenham Town.
There is talk of grassroots football being in crisis, with village teams folding on a regular basis.
Boyce said: “It’s a shame to see it and I don’t know if it’s down to lack of funding or what.
“But I see there are always youngsters wanting to play football and think the grassroots game will come through this,”
Looking back on his time, Boyce says one year stands out.
He said: “I always say 1964 was the best year of my life. I scored the wining goal in the FA Cup final, passed my driving test and got married.
“I always get in trouble when I say it in that order.”