Talking Point

Nyle Becomes a Hammer

*Blind Hammer will have a new companion at the LS next season.

My Guide Dog Nyle has finally been allocated space at the London Stadium. Nyle is a beautiful and remarkable dog who has transformed my life over the last 4 years. There are occasions in which he has quite literally saved my life. For example see
https://dgriffithblog.com/2017/03/21/today-a-guide-dog-saved-my-life-seriously-again/

The sad thing was that at Upton Park, and this last season at the London Stadium, there was simply no room in which I could take Nyle. I am a big unit- over 6ft 3inches tall even in my stooped older state. Nyle is an equivalent big dog needed to drag me around, he is over 6 stones himself and when stretched out he covers the whole of the back seat of our car. I could only just squeeze myself into my seat at the London Stadium. There was no practical room for Nyle to come.

Now West Ham has allocated an area which extra space where Nyle can rest on his rug.

This should transform my experience of match days. We will still have a seat for a sighted human carer as Nyle and I need help to manage amongst the crowds at the Stadium itself. However the extra space for Nyle will transform the way I can travel.

It will now be possible for me to take more logical routes to the Stadium and back home. These routes were, until now, difficult, stressful if not downright impossible for a completely blind person using a white stick. For example, navigating around the Olympic Park itself is extremely challenging for someone blind. There are few walls to safely tap along to guide you, no simple streets with kerbs to follow, no portable GPS information, to reassure you that you are on a correct street. My specialised CPS will simply announce I am in an “Open area” which is not very helpful. The potential to spend hours wandering blindly lost around a vast park are high. Even my sighted guides sometimes struggle to work out where they are in the park.

Now Nyle should simply be able to walk me out of the Park to the Bus Stop I need, help me get on the Bus and last but not least get me home from where the Bus drops me off again. It sounds odd but a Guide dog is often better than a human at guiding.

Much of these logical journeys were impossible, at least worrying and trying simply using a white cane. In reality I spent a lot of money on taxis and adopting different longer routes home depending on which sighted help I had and what way they were travelling.

Another aspect is that Nyle and I will not be regularly separated. People rarely understand the depth of the bond which develops between a guide Dog and his owner. A guide Dog is by some order of magnitude, more integrated into your life than a normal pet dog would be. People rightly get very fond of their pets but the mutual reliance a Guide Dog and their owner develop is special. You normally need a Guide Dog to go everywhere with you. Nyle believes it is his job to be with me at all times. Nyle will guide me to my fortnightly hospital visits at Bart’s, and also Doctors’ appointments. In addition on the Health theme he guides me to a Clinic for blood tests, at Whips Cross Hospital he guide some variously to the Eye Treatment Centre, Chest Clinic, Audiology clinic, and Orthopaedic Clinics. He does all this for me without the need for any human help. Although as you might guess I have some health issues this is thankfully not all that he does. He guides me to lectures, to local shops, and a variety of social events including his favourite local cafes and pubs which he is very fond of. Even at the allotment he guides me to the water trough so that we can collect water to refresh the potatoes. In between times he will happily lay quietly at my back for hours whilst I do the weeding. He lies at my feet whilst I type my Blind Hammer Posts.

This means he cannot understand why every fortnight or so I abandon him for 6 hours. It also feels a bit weird for me personally to go out without him. According to my wife, he pines and worries whilst I am away. He actually starts getting anxious as soon as I put on my West Ham scarf.

So this is set to change next season. Another Guide Dog user has told me that his Dogs reportedly watches the game, or at least allegedly tracks the ball with their eyes. I guess they also get interested with the Referee’s whistle. Whether Nyle will turn his undoubted intelligence to making observations for Bilic’s tactics we will have to see. I suspect that he may just be more interested in gnawing his Antler toy.

So thanks, to West Ham Accessibility Team, for finally making arrangements to allow Nyle to become a Hammer.

COYI

David Griffith


Development Squad

To Loan Or Not To Loan?

I’ll lay my cards on the table from the outset – I personally am a big believer in the loan system. Our big successes from youth to first team level have all benefited from time in the lower leagues. Frank Lampard Junior spent a month at Swansea, while Rio Ferdinand went to Bournemouth. Joe Cole was the exception to the rule as he was fast-tracked to the first team but Michael Carrick had short spells at Swindon and Birmingham. Jermain Defoe had a highly successful stint at Bournemouth and Glen Johnson played a handful of games for Millwall. Mark Noble spent time at Hull and Ipswich while, more recently, James Tomkins had a spell at Derby before becoming a Hammers regular.

Of course, along the way, there are loan spells that didn’t work out. Freddie Sears showed at Crystal Palace that he would find it difficult to replicate his excellent youth team form at full league level and he subsequently struggled with the Hammers in the Premier League. Martin Samuelsen and Marcus Browne had disappointing, disrupted spells at Championship level last season while Reece Burke’s encouraging development was hampered by a hip injury at Wigan. Conversely, Josh Cullen had an excellent spell at Bradford, following in the footsteps of Burke the season before.

Another factor to throw in of course is that West Ham United’s Under-23s recently secured promotion to the top flight of PL2, ensuring their place amongst the best players in their age group. It is of the utmost importance that this elite position is not relinquished. This brings with it a precarious balancing act of sending young players out on loan to gain experience in the Football League, while simultaneously leaving enough quality players to ensure the Under-23 side can adequately compete.

As an aside, I’m very much of the opinion that Reece Oxford has secured a fantastic temporary switch to a very good side in one of the best leagues in the world and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish him the very best of luck at Borussia Monchengladbach. As it currently stands, he will be facing the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Robert Lewandowski, Anthony Modeste, Timo Werner and Mario Gomez next season. It will be a great experience for young Reece and, in my opinion, will be a huge boost to his development and only serve to benefit West Ham United in the long run.

In this article, I give my opinions on which Hammers starlets should be retained and who else, alongside Oxford, would benefit from loan spells.

Reece Burke – LOAN

Burke had a fantastic 2015/16 campaign on loan in League One with Bradford but his spell at Wigan in the Championship last season was disrupted by injury. With Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, James Collins and Jose Fonte ahead of him in the current pecking order, a further spell out on loan in the Championship may be best for the 20-year-old’s development. However, we should look to find him a bigger and better club than we did last season, ideally somewhere where he can play at a big stadium in front of expectant home fans.

Declan Rice – RETAIN

With Oxford and possibly Burke out on loan, the Under-23s will need a centre-half who can help them keep clean sheets. 18-year-old skipper Rice is the ideal man to stay and help his troops through the top-flight transition.

Josh Cullen – LOAN

Cullen (pictured above) had an excellent time at Bradford last season but the jump from League One football to the Premier League is a huge one. The next logical step for the 21-year-old is a similar stint in the Championship. As with Bradford in the league below, a club competing at the top end of the division would only help Cullen’s confidence levels.

Marcus Browne – RETAIN

Browne’s loan spell at Wigan was not far short of a disaster. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder will almost certainly need a serious boost to his confidence and staying with the Hammers as a top-flight Academy player will hopefully help do that for him.

Martin Samuelsen – RETAIN

Another who had a disastrous loan spell last season, this time at Blackburn. A very promising stint in League One the previous campaign with Peterborough was not built on at Ewood Park, again highlighting the concerns regarding sending players to clubs who struggle against relegation. The 20-year-old, already capped at full international level by Norway, was not the same player when he returned to The Posh in January. Samuelsen (pictured below) will benefit from being in and around the first team squad at West Ham next season and by getting regular game time with the Under-23s in the PL2 top tier.

Domingos Quina – LOAN

Quina spent a lot of time as an unused substitute in the Premier League last season and, at the age of 17, would do well to get regular football elsewhere. Any Championship team with a focus on creativity and attacking football would be a good choice for Quina.

Ashley Fletcher – LOAN

I’m personally not sure that 21-year-old Fletcher has what it takes to be a regular goalscorer at Premier League level but there’s no harm in loaning him out and seeing if he can use the Championship as a stepping stone to future top-flight success. There’s no doubt the lad has talent but his only regular game time to date has come in League One at Barnsley in 2015/16. A team chasing promotion would be ideal, maybe one of the sides relegated from the Premier League last season as he’d be playing and training alongside players with recent top-level experience.

Toni Martinez – LOAN

Martinez had a decent spell at Oxford, although seemingly performed better in the FA Cup than in League One. Half a season in the Championship would be good for his development, particularly if he had the opportunity to work with a manager who used to be a striker to help guide him through how to be a success against tough, uncompromising defenders. Martinez turns 20 on Friday.

My suggestions above would see the Hammers loan out six youngsters in Burke, Oxford, Cullen, Quina, Fletcher and Martinez. The Under-23 side would therefore consist mainly of:

Trott; Pike, Pask, Rice, Sylvestre; Dobson, Browne; Kemp, Samuelsen, Holland; Hector-Ingram.

That, to me, looks like a side which could have a good go at retaining the club’s position in the top tier of the Under-23 league, with players who had spells away from the club on loan last season (Pike, Pask, Dobson, Browne and Samuelsen) being retained to add their loan experiences to the added rigour and challenge of the coming PL2 campaign, as well as being available for the first team for League Cup ties and a place on the bench in the Premier League.

So, what do readers think? Do you agree with the players selected for loan? Would you prefer to keep all our youngsters for the Under-23 campaign or, conversely, loan out even more for full league experience?


The HamburgHammer Column

Sour Krauts and Chinese dumplings - For a few Euros more

Thank God the football is finally back! For me at least. Not content with watching old West Ham highlights on DVD or the Confed Cup on the telly, I took myself to my very first football game of the new season and not even for a Concordia first team game but a preseason friendly of Concordia’s 2nd string/development squad/youth team away to ASV Bergedorf, nicknamed Die Elstern (The Magpies) after their black and white home shirts (just like Newcastle), with the main difference that the away support in their ground will never have to suffer from vertigo!
It ended in a very pleasant 4:2 win, so a good first entry into my football diary for the new season.

The Concordia first team will play their first two preseason games next weekend.

I had planned to write about at least one more new West Ham signing in my column, but there is now just no point trying to predict who our next signing is going to be and when it’s going to happen. The simple truth appears to be that indeed we need to remain patient until the big clubs have made their first moves buying their new strikers before we can then sign up their benchwarmers who happen to be our main targets this summer apparently.

Let us now jump into the headline of my column which gives us another off topic story from the lower levels of the German footballing scene, but bear me with as I can see this rearing its head in England too somewhere down the road. Allow me to take you to the 4th level of German football, into the Regionalliga Südwest (Regional League Southwest), a 4th level lower league of amateur or semi-professional clubs covering a vast geographical area of Germany, from the Black Forest in the South near the Swiss border, to Stuttgart in the East, with Frankfurt/Main smack in the middle and going as far up North as Kassel.
If you were to drive from Freiburg to Kassel for a game it’d be like travelling from London to Newcastle (and then some), just over 300 miles one way.

So you can imagine that this league consists of clubs from vastly different federal states and provinces, hence boasting different cultures, dialects, tempers. And like most clubs in the lower leagues there is a distinct lack of money with clubs struggling to sell tickets and pay bills. So one would think some extra money might come in handy for the new season. Add to that the current moves by Germany to intensify relationships with China on various levels anyway (business, culture, football) and the following idea won’t come quite as much of a surprise.

The Regionalliga Südwest at the moment is made up of 19 teams which means one of those teams would sit idle every weekend. On the other hand you have the Chinese Football Association who would like to boost the chances of their national side for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Which is why plans are now at an advanced stage to move the China U20 side into quarters near Heidelberg and make them play league games regularly against the teams in the Regionalliga Südwest.

The results and points, however, would not count for the official league table with the Chinese team not even listed in the table and they also wouldn’t have a ground of their own to host games. They would basically travel and play away games against every league team on the weekend it’d otherwise sit idle, play each of those teams twice during the season and raise the standards of their young players in the process of playing competitive games week in week out.

Each of the opposition teams as a reward would get between 15.000 and 20.000 Euros per game into their club coffers as part of the deal. Some club representatives have already gone up in arms about the idea, calling it a joke, a circus, a step too far, just another way of selling football’s soul in exchange for some kickbacks. Waldhof Mannheim were the first tclub to outright reject playing the Chinese and instead have begun organising games against one of the teams relegated from the league the previous season, the idea being they’d rather support another local club financially than being the stirrup holders of a team from the Far East, especially a national side, with no roots whatsoever in the local province or community.

What’s your take on this ? A win-win situation for all parties as the Chinese need the games and the German clubs need the money ?
A stupid idea whatever way you look at it ? It certainly is a factor also that the points gained (or lost) in these encounters would not affect the league table.
So how competitive would those games be in the first place?

Would the German teams deliberately rest their main players and treat the games against the Asian Kids as nothing more than friendly kickabouts ?
Or how about the other way around if players suffer bad injuries from over-enthusiastic Chinese opponents dishing out crunching tackles in order to impress their manager ?

Going back to West Ham I will not dare say if we will see a new signing being wrapped up for us this week. If there is a signing though, I really hope it’ll be Kelechi Iheanacho.
The much discussed buyback clause no longer bothers me as frankly it is not worth losing the player over the slim possibility Man City might want him back after two years and we would then “only” make a 10 million profit on his transfer back to Manchester.

Firstly, we’d have the player for at least the next two seasons which is the main thing I care about at this point. Secondly, City would only buy him back if he ends up being among the league’s five top scorers or so. Which means West Ham would also be in a terrific position as a club resulting in Iheanacho quite possibly prefering to stay at West Ham anyway.

If not, however, we’d still get about 30 million from City and would also be in a healthy league and financial position to attract a suitable replacement.
So nothing at this point really justifies letting the player go elsewhere over something as trivial as a buyback clause which may actually never be triggered anyway.

Not far to go now until West Ham arrive on their preseason tour of Germany which will be one hell of an exciting week for me. I think my record in terms of watching Hammers games in quick succession was in December when I watched us play three first team games in succession (one away two home) in the space of just seven days.
This time though it’ll be three games in just five days, a new personal record.

And if I’m lucky, not only will the weather do its bit giving us a few gorgeous summer days, but I may also be able to meet the team in their training camp which is not too far from Hamburg, so I hope it’ll be possible to have a quick chat with Slaven and a few of the players and they will be kind enough to sign a few matchday programmes for me.
To make it all a bit easier for me and to also give the preseason tour a bit of the old away day feel I have even booked accommodation in Schneverdingen and Bremen which will also give me a bit more time to spend with the Hammers travelling army.

The culmination of course will be the game against Altona 93 in my beloved hometown. This game will be packed with a lot of contrasting emotions for me.
As you know I would have wanted Concordia to play this game instead of Altona. But Cordi couldn’t afford the match fee, in contrast Altona apparently managed to find a suitable sponsor/business partner to get the idea off the ground.

You may also know that Altona were Concordia’s fiercest rivals for promotion last season, with Cordi ultimately missing out and Altona making the step up to the next level.
So you can imagine that Altona will never be my favourite Hamburg based club to put it mildly.
With all those games coming up I was busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes what with buying the tickets, looking for accommodation etc.

Altona was a special treat in that respect as the ordering form where you could buy tickets online was done very ingeniously in a way that I ended up buying home tickets several times (despite clicking the guest ticket option first). I will see how I get rid of those home tickets now.
I then had a long online conversation with the Altona ticket office explaining to me there would be strong segregation and the away section was allocated strictly and exclusively for the English as they put it.

I found this slightly nationalistic as I tried to explain to them there would be loads of Hammers fans travelling over from Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, other parts of Germany and I also enquired if they were actually planning on doing passport controls for those fans willing to enter the away section. They then came out with the idea that I had to wait on the day if there was still space available and only then could I be let into the ground as a German West Ham fan. Bowlocks!

After arguing back and forth, they finally had to admit there was not much they could do if I bought a ticket for the away section (which I did of course), but somehow they still couldn’t grasp that a dyed-in-the-wool Hamburger could NOT support Altona in this game. Maybe I should have also told them that I support Concordia as well which might have helped them to understand why I want Altona to get a good old drubbing on the day!

For those of you travelling to this game I’ve added the videos above, in one of them there even is an English fan who adopted Altona as his club and moved to Hamburg as well. It’s supposed to give you an idea of both the stadium you are about to enter and also the highly loyal and feisty supporters of this old, traditional Hamburg football club.
For most of you the rusty old charme of the Adolf Jäger Kampfbahn (named after Altona’s version of Bobby Moore) will bring tears of nostalgia to your Mince Pies.

It’s a football ground as traditional as they get, bang in the middle of the local community (does that remind you of somewhere?), with most of the fans standing close to the pitch, forever hopelessly loyal to their regularly underachieving team. The Altona fans also have a fairly dry sense of humour, at least most of them and nowadays they view their much more famous neighbours St.Pauli as nothing but newly rich, posh and uppity primadonna divas. It’s all relative I suppose…LOL

Let’s hope there finally will be some new signings at West Ham soon. Let’s hope the preseason tour in Germany will be a complete success on and off the pitch, with no silly rucks between intoxicated supporters. Let’s just enjoy a few days in the sun, watching our boys in claret and blue, cheering them on and anticipating a new season with better things to come…COYI!


Tribute

Hammer of the Year 1973: Bryan 'Pop' Robson

As Tony Hanna re-visits his excellent nostalgia articles, I thought I’d go through some Hammer of the Year winners who I’ve previously written about in the ‘Club Connections’ section of my match previews. Today we take a look at the 1973 winner of the coveted prize as voted for by the supporters…

A Magpie from 1962 until 1971, Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson was signed from Clara Vale Juniors and went on to be a member of Joe Harvey’s Newcastle team who were crowned Second Division champions in 1965. Robson made his senior debut during that campaign, scoring seven goals in 20 appearances and playing mainly as a right-winger before his move to a more central position. The story of his famous nickname goes back to when Robson and two childhood friends named themselves after the Rice Krispies cereal characters ‘Snap’, ‘Crackle’ and ‘Pop’ – Robson’s moniker was to stay with him. Newcastle went on to win the European Fairs Cup, the last major trophy to arrive at St James’ Park, with Robson forming an effective partnership with Wyn Davies. Robson scored 30 goals in 1968/69 as Newcastle enjoyed European success before notching 25 the following season. Having been at the club for eight years, Robson requested a testimonial after ten years’ service during contract negotiations. Chairman Lord Westwood rejected the request, following a trend at the club, according to ‘Pop’ himself, whereby homegrown talent was not as recognised or appreciated as much as purchased players.

At the age of 25 and following 97 goals from 243 starts for Newcastle, Robson became West Ham United’s record signing in February 1971 when Ron Greenwood signed him for a fee of £120,000 – Robson is pictured above signing on the dotted line for the Hammers. He scored on his debut in a 2-0 home win against Nottingham Forest on 24th February 1971. Two more goals against Manchester United and West Brom, both in 2-1 home victories, helped the Hammers avoid the drop at the end of that season. ‘Pop’ scored 14 goals in 1971/72, including a hat-trick in a 5-0 League Cup quarter-final win over Sheffield United (see my video at the end of the article). His finest season came in 1972/73, however, when he led the First Division goalscoring charts with 28 goals as the Hammers finished in the top six. This impressive haul included eight doubles and one hat-trick in a 4-3 home win over Southampton and resulted in ‘Pop’ being crowned Hammer of the Year. This was followed by just eight goals the following season and, in July 1974, Robson was heading back to the north-east to join Sunderland for £145,000. He had scored 53 goals in 140 appearances for the Hammers.

After helping the Wearsiders to Second Division title glory in 1975/76, John Lyall brought the diminutive forward back to the Boleyn in October 1976 – while he had been away, West Ham had won the 1975 FA Cup and made the Final of the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup. His 14 goals in 1976/77, particularly a double in a final-day 4-2 home win over Manchester United, ensured the Hammers’ survival in the top flight. His 11 goals the following season, however, were not enough to save the Irons from suffering relegation. ‘Pop’ hit 26 goals in the Second Division in 1978/79, including a hat-trick in a 3-0 triumph over fierce rivals Millwall in October 1978. After being voted runner-up to Alan Devonshire in the Hammer of the Year poll, Robson rejoined Sunderland in the summer of 1979 for £45,000 – he again missed out on FA Cup glory with West Ham as the club went on to win the trophy again at the end of the following season. ‘Pop’ had scored 51 goals in 115 matches during his second spell at Upton Park, giving him overall statistics of 104 goals from 255 appearances in all competitions for the Hammers.

Robson helped Sunderland to another promotion in 1980 and went on to play for Chelsea and Carlisle, as well as having a third spell with Sunderland. He represented England at Under-23 level but never won a full cap. Since retiring from playing Robson, now 71, has coached and scouted at Hartlepool, Manchester United, Leeds and Sunderland.

My video below contains 20 of Robson’s goals for West Ham United, including his hat-trick against Sheffield United and doubles against Manchester United, Sheffield United, Everton and Derby. The Hammers – in the hunt for a new striker this summer – are currently crying out for a forward with Pop’s finishing ability. One wonders how much the Geordie goalscoring genius would be worth in today’s market…


Talking Point

Fred Corbett – Our first Black Footballing Trailblazer.

Blind Hammer examines a little known Player from West Ham History.

Until recently if anybody had asked me who the first black forward to play for West Ham was, I would have instantly replied Clyde Best. However reading Mitchell’s “Colouring across the White Line” – a history of black footballers I discovered, to my surprise, that the third ever black professional footballer to emerge in the 19th Century actually played for West Ham in our inaugural season. . Let me introduce you to Fred Corbett.

Details of Corbett’s life in Mitchell’s book are scarce but I have tried to pull together some details from other sources elsewhere which make for an interesting story.

Corbett was an East Ender, born in 1881 in West Ham. He developed his footballing skills by playing for the Old St Luke’s Youth Football Team. Mitchell seems to suggest he may have been mixed race, others simply describe him as black.

Now the Old St Luke’s Team forms an important part of West Ham History. Many believe that our formation was simply due to the Thames Ironworks Works team. Many also believe that industrial works teams formed the basis for the creation of modern professional football. However, this is an over simplification.

There was another driver for the formation of Football teams in the 19th century and this was the “muscular Christianity” movement. The idea of muscular Christianity was very much that of “healthy body – healthy mind and morals”. Football was seen as a moral healthy alternative to spending Saturday afternoons in the Pub getting drunk. Tottenham Hotspur’s formation for example had nothing to do with a workplace team and came out of a “Bible Study Group”.

Old St Luke’s was in this tradition of Christian football at the time. The importance for our story of Corbett is to realise that even before the Thames Ironworks team was established as a professional side there were precursor clubs. The first was the Castle Swifts, a workplace team based on the Castle Line repair Shipyard situated by Bow Creek on the Thames. The Castle Swifts, formed in 1892, were the first professional football team in what was then Essex. The second team was Old St Luke’s, a Church based team. The Castle Swifts were merged with Old St Luke’s Football Team in 1893 to become rebranded as the “Old Castle Swifts”. There are some who claim that the lineage of our Club’s Castle emblem comes not from the association with the Boleyn Castle but this lesser known connection with the Old Castle Swifts.

As part of the merger the Castle Swifts now Old Castle Swifts moved into the Old St Luke’s Hermit Road Football ground in Canning Town. Apparently Old St Luke’s for anybody interested stopped being a Church in 1895 and as far as I can tell is now a Community Centre.

The Old Castle Swifts enjoyed brief success in their new home but folded in 1895. For our story though they crucially enjoyed the attention and friendship of Arnold Hill, then the Director of Thames Ironworks. Hill was incidentally another Victorian committed to Christian temperance and saw Football as a healthy past time for working men. Hill not only took over the tenancy of the Swift’s Hermit Road ground but recruited 8 of the Old Castle Swift’s players to form the nucleus of his new Thames Ironworks side.

Thames Ironworks were then the Phoenix arising out of the ashes of the Old Castle Swifts project. The importance for our story of Corbett is that he was, one of the Youth Players, amongst others, for Old St Luke’s who were eventually promoted into playing for Thames Ironworks. Old St Luke’s Youth team, who oddly did not formally merge with Castle Swifts, unlike their adult fellow congregationists, instead formed a famous and impressive team of 12-13 year olds. This team, including Corbett in its ranks, had an extraordinary record. After their formation in 1893 the old St Luke’s Youth team played, over 4 years, 114 matches with 104 wins, 3 draws and only seven defeats. This record was matched by the goals performance with 558 goals for and only 49 against. This seems to suggest that this extraordinary team of West Ham based Victorian teenagers were on average winning games 11-1!

Given this, it was no surprise that some of the Old St Luke’s Youth Team performances at Hermit Road came to the attention of Arnold Hill. It seems likely that Old St Luke’s were in effect an early Youth Team for the Ironworks. .

A pathway was formed for Old St Luke’s players like Corbett to aspire for a professional football career. Corbett alongside James Bigden graduated to play for the Thames Ironworks and eventually West Ham.

Corbett made his debut during the 1888-1899 season as an 18 year old right wing forward for the Ironworks. I have no records of the games Corbett played apart from the fact that he made only 3 appearances. If anybody knows how to track this it would be interesting to know.

However after the Ironworks were transformed into West Ham during the 1899-1900 season, Corbett started to make his mark.

He made his debut as a West Ham player in the 0-1 away defeat to Reading on the 16th September 1899. . He did not play automatically and he had to wait until the 6th of October 1900 to score his first goal. He provided the winner in his fifth game for the club in a 0-1 away win at Swindon Town.
He swiftly followed this initial success up by scoring the following week with a goal in a home 2-0 win against Watford.

Corbett once more scored the following month. He struck on the 17th November to earn West Ham a FA Cup home replay in the 1-1 draw with New Brompton. He was again on the mark in the return leg in the 4-1 home victory.

Corbett then demonstrated his fondness for playing against Swindon when in January 1901 he grabbed his first brace for the club in a 3-1 win. His goals home and away ensured we had completed a double over them.

Into February 1901 and Corbett again proved his value by scoring in our 2-0 home win against Luton Town on the 9th.

Corbett then again had a comparative barren spell before scoring twice in 2 games in March. He netted in our 2-0 home win against Bristol Rovers Before ensuring popularity with local supporters by grabbing the winner in our 1-0 home win against Millwall.

Corbett then had to wait for September of the new 1901 season to find the net. Tellingly this was again against Bristol Rovers. His repeated success in scoring goals against rovers, , in this case in a 0 -2 away win probably prompted Bristol Rover’s eventual interest in signing him.

His finest moment in a West Ham shirt came on the 30th September 1901 when he scored a hat trick in in the 4-2 win against Wellingborough Town. To modern eyes this does not look a big game. But the gate exceeded that for recent games against Luton, Reading and Watford so we have to place the game in context.

In probably his richest vein of form for West Ham, Corbett then grabbed a further brace of goals in our 4-1 victory on the 12th October 1901 against Luton Town in front of 6,000 supporters at the Memorial ground. This equalled the highest attendance he had so far played in front up to this time, comfortably beating the 5,500 which had turned up for the match against Tottenham Hotspur the previous season.

However Corbett was playing in a dynamic period of transition. The extent to which the game was growing was demonstrated by the explosion in attendances which started to occur.
For example, whilst the home game against Millwall in March only attracted 2,500 supporters, this gate had increased to 9,000 only 6 months later in the equivalent home fixture in October 1901.

Similarly the fixture against Tottenham In November 1901 dramatically trebled the previous season’s attendance with a startling gate, for the time, of 17,000. The interest in this game was almost certainly boosted and fuelled by the fact that Tottenham had hit the headlines by winning the FA Cup a few months earlier. They remain the last non-league side to win the FA Cup.

Despite the growth in West Ham as a club and his important role in these crucial early days the goals against Luton marked the final goals Corbett scored for West Ham. Records from different web sites are inconsistent but Corbett either ended up playing 35 games for West Ham, scoring 15 goals, or 33 times with 13 goals.

After this latest barren spell he probably saw his future elsewhere. The West Ham official page on Corbett reports that the then manager Syd King
Often played George Radcliffe and
Fergus Huntahead of Corbett.

The silver lining for the young Corbett was that the dramatic growth in Football as an industry provided alternative opportunities. He signed for Bristol Rovers, as we have seen, a team which had previously suffered at first hand his scoring talents. Corbett was obviously a popular figure at Rovers, eventually ending up playing for Rovers during 3 separate spells, in between spells playing for Bristol City Gillingham and Brentford.

Corbett success did not diminish after his departure. For example he played 97 times for Brentford between 1905 and 1908 and had an impressive strike rate, scoring 39 goals from the right. He played 49 times for Bristol City, again contributing 14 goals. I cannot but wonder if Syd King ever regretted his decision to let Corbett go.

Whilst I have never seen Corbett I cannot but reflect that his description as a right sided goal scoring forward is hauntingly reminiscent of a modern day Antonio.

Corbett died in Brentford, at a comparatively early age of 43 in 1924 and he has largely slipped away from West Ham history.

However my personal view is that we should reclaim his memory and celebrate his achievements. Mitchell’s book Colouring across the White Lines reveals the despicable levels of official, institutionalised as well as casual racism and prejudice that all these early black pioneers had to surmount. The psychological pressure exerted on black sportsman trying to succeed in front of thousands of potentially hostile supporters, in an age even more savage in attitudes than that shown in the 70s and 80s is rarely recognised.

Corbett was one of us. He was literally a son of West Ham, growing up and developed as a footballer in the heart of the East End. Despite his local heritage his ethnicity would have also made him an outcast in many “polite” and not so polite circles even in his home of the East End. He succeeded against the odds in reaching the heights of the professional game.

He is somebody we should remember and celebrate more. He is one of ours.

COYI

David Griffith


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