Blast from the past
Syd King’s West Ham United arrived at Cassio Road, the former home of this weekend’s opponents Watford, for a Southern League First Division fixture on 28th March 1908 while en route to a tenth-place finish. The first Scout troop outside the UK had been formed in Gibraltar the day before and British film director Sir David Lean was born three days earlier. Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole had recently received its premiere in Paris – it was one of Ravel’s first major works for orchestra.
With goalkeeper George Kitchen injured in an FA Cup second round defeat at Newcastle the previous month, understudy David Clarke continued his extended run between the posts. The Hammers recorded a 3-2 victory in front of 3,000 spectators. Len Jarvis (pictured) – or ‘Dick’ as he was popularly known – bagged a rare goal on this spring afternoon. The never-say-die half-back, who was employed at a Grays cement works before signing for West Ham, was one of the club’s most consistent performers but only scored five goals in his 140 appearances for the Hammers over six seasons. His spirit was typified in a match against Brighton when he sustained a deep cut which required several stitches after a kick to the face – he returned to the action, albeit heavily bandaged. His whole-hearted approach often landed him in hot water with the authorities – he gained attention and press coverage when he smashed Millwall’s Alf Dean against a metal advertising hoarding in a game on 13th October 1906. The incident was investigated by the Football Association and Jarvis was banned from playing for two weeks. This strike at Watford transpired to be Jarvis’ last goal for West Ham before a move into league football with First Division Bury over a year later, in the summer of 1909.
Outside-right Jim Frost was also on the scoresheet at Cassio Road – it was his second of four goals for the club, having made his debut just two months earlier. Centre-forward Harry Stapley completed the Hammers’ scoring with his last goal for the club – this was Stapley’s final appearance for West Ham before he moved into league football with Second Division Glossop, having scored 41 goals in 75 matches for the Irons. He retained his amateur status so he could continue working as a schoolteacher.
Watford would finish the 1907/08 campaign in 14th position, while Stapley would end the season as the Irons’ top goalscorer with ten goals in 25 games.
West Ham United: David Clarke, James Gault, Archie Taylor, Dick Jarvis, Tommy Allison, Bob Young, Jim Frost, Billy Grassam, Harry Stapley, Billy Brown, Fred Blackburn.
Former Hammer Mauro Zarate is now on Watford’s books, although the Argentine forward is currently with Dubai-based side Al Nasr on a season-long loan.
Other players to have represented both clubs, divided by position, include:
Goalkeepers: Billy Biggar, Ted Hufton, David James, Perry Suckling, Manuel Almunia, Jack Rutherford.
Defenders: Jon Harley, Calum Davenport, Lucas Neill, James McCrae, Chris Powell, Colin Foster.
Midfielders: Henri Lansbury, Alan Devonshire, Alessandro Diamanti, Stuart Slater, Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Lindsay, Joe Blythe, David Noble, Jimmy Carr, Mark Robson, Valon Behrami, Carl Fletcher.
Strikers: James Reid, David Connolly, Jack Foster, Roger Hugo, Billy Jennings, Peter Kyle, Bertie Lyon.
Len Goulden played for West Ham and managed Watford, while Malky Mackay played for both clubs and went on to manage the Vicarage Road club. Glenn Roeder played for the Hornets and managed both clubs; Gianfranco Zola has managed both the Hammers and the Hornets.
This week’s focus though is on a goalkeeper who represented both clubs in the early years of the 20th century and serves as a tribute to those footballers, and indeed all, who have fought for our country at this time of Remembrance. Joe Webster was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in 1886 and started his career with his local club Ilkeston United in 1907. He moved to Watford in 1910 where he was signed as Billy Biggar’s replacement. Biggar was also a former Hammers goalkeeper himself, having made seven appearances in 1902/03 before becoming an outstanding servant at Watford, for whom he played 217 matches between 1904 and 1910, when he moved to Rochdale.
Webster had big boots to fill but adapted admirably, making 148 appearances for Watford in the Southern League. Watford failed to forward Webster’s name for registration at the start of the 1912/13 season though and were fined by the Southern League authorities. Webster played alongside the young Arthur Grimsdell whilst at Watford – Grimsdell would go on to captain England and skippered Tottenham to FA Cup glory in 1921 before returning to Watford to serve on their board of directors between 1945 and 1951.
Webster (pictured) signed for West Ham United in 1914 and made his debut in a 2-1 win over Gillingham at Upton Park on 1st September that year. He made 17 Southern League appearances for the Hammers in 1914/15, keeping five clean sheets. One of these shutouts came in a 1-0 win at former club Watford on 28th November 1914.
World War One was to interrupt Webster’s West Ham career though – he had three years active service in France, serving in the 17th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment). This infantry battalion was a ‘Pals battalion’ – a specially constituted battalion of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and colleagues (‘pals’), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions. Webster’s particular battalion was known as the ‘Football Battalion’.
During the First World War there had been an initial push by clubs for professional football to continue, in order to keep the public’s spirits up. This stance was not widely agreed with and public opinion turned against professional footballers. One soldier, serving in France, wrote to a British newspaper to complain that “hundreds of thousands of able-bodied young roughs were watching hirelings playing football” while others were serving their country. The suggestion was even made that King George V should cease being a patron of The Football Association. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, publicly objected and appealed for footballers to volunteer for service, saying “If a footballer has strength of limb, let them serve and march in the field of battle”.
Conservative MP for Brentford and future Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks formed the battalion on 12th December 1914 at Fulham Town Hall after a suggestion by Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener. England international Frank Buckley became the first player to join with a further 30 players who signed up at its formation. The formation was announced to the general public on 1st January 1915 and approximately 150 more enlisted over the next few months, the battalion’s ranks further swelled by numerous amateur players, officials and fans. Webster’s fellow goalkeeper, Tommy Lonsdale, who had preceded Webster between the posts at Upton Park before signing for Southend, also signed up. Press complaints continued though, as there were some 1,800 eligible footballers – I have previously told the story of how George Hilsdon, formerly of West Ham and Chelsea, hid in a chicken run to avoid active service. Many footballers deliberately chose to avoid the battalion by joining other regiments, causing the War Office to initially have difficulties filling the ‘Football Battalion’.
Embed from Getty Images
Webster fought as a Private on the Somme, at Vimy Ridge, at Ypres in the Battle of Passchendaele and at Cambrai. He survived these battles and, moreover, the Great War itself and re-joined West Ham after the Armistice, with the Hammers having now been elected to the Football League. He made two Second Division appearances, both at Upton Park, as deputy for Ted Hufton – these were against Huddersfield in a 1-1 draw on 27th December 1919 and Port Vale in a 3-1 Hammers win on 7th February 1920. The win over Port Vale would be Webster’s 19th and last match for the club – he went back to Watford as the club’s trainer at the end of the 1919/20 season and later held a similar role at Northampton. Joe Webster died following an appendix operation on 15th October 1927 in Northampton – with his exact date of birth unknown, he passed away at either the age of 40 or 41.
The referee on Sunday will be Andre Marriner; the 46-year-old’s most recent Hammers appointment was the 2-2 draw at David Moyes’ Sunderland in April, while he also took charge of our 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea in March, Boxing Day’s 4-1 win at Swansea and the 1-1 home draw with Stoke last November. Prior to that, in last season’s trip to Manchester City, he had failed to send off Sergio Aguero for an elbow on Winston Reid with the Hammers trailing 2-1 with 14 minutes remaining. The Argentine was retrospectively charged with violent conduct and suspended for three matches, a decision which did nothing to benefit West Ham. Marriner did, however, show leniency that day towards the visitors by failing to issue Arthur Masuaku with a second yellow card on more than one occasion.
Embed from Getty Images
Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has been far from a good omen for West Ham – he has refereed 15 of our league matches, officiating in only three wins for the Hammers, five draws and seven defeats.
Tommy Hoban, Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success are out injured for Watford, while Troy Deeney is suspended. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, centre-half Christian Kabasele and attacking midfielder Roberto Pereyra are all expected to be fit but centre-half Sebastian Prodl and winger Andre Carrillo face late fitness tests. Richarlison has had 39 attempts on goal in the Premier League this season, second only to Harry Kane’s 59 – the Brazilian has scored with four of his seven efforts on target.
For West Ham United, Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho should be available after international duty but Chicharito is out with a hamstring injury. Sam Byram, Jose Fonte and Michail Antonio are also unavailable. James Collins is back in training but is not yet ready for selection after seven weeks out. Pablo Zabaleta returns from suspension. David Moyes will take charge of West Ham for the first time in his 500th match as a Premier League manager – a tally only surpassed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and former Irons boss Harry Redknapp. The Hammers have lost only one of their last 13 league matches at Watford.
Possible Watford XI: Gomes; Femenia, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas; Doucoure; Pereyra, Cleverley, Hughes, Richarlison; Gray.
Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Kouyate, Obiang; Lanzini, Carroll, Ayew.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!