From the Archives

The Story of ‘Gatling Gun’ George Hilsdon

10th August: George Hilsdon was born on this day 135 years ago, in 1885.

George Hilsdon was born in Bromley-by-Bow on the 10th August 1885 and was a pupil of Marner St School. The Hilsdon family moved to East Ham where George transferred to Plashet Lane School and captained East Ham Boys to victory in the 1900/01 Corinthian Shield. After learning his trade with South West Ham and Castle Swifts, and playing as an amateur for Clapton Orient and Luton, Hilsdon signed for West Ham United at the start of the 1904/05 season. George’s brother Jack had already made a solitary appearance for the Hammers in September 1903.

The slim 19-year-old made a goalscoring debut for the Southern League Hammers on 11th February 1905 in a 2-0 home win against New Brompton. On 17th April 1905, after scoring in a 3-0 win against Fulham, Hilsdon was injured and unable to play for the rest of the season. However, his record of four goals in seven games represented an outstanding start to his football career. Hilsdon’s injury problems persisted in 1905/06 and, with the signing of fellow centre-forward Harry Stapley, he was restricted to nine league games, scoring three times. Following seven goals in 18 matches in all competitions, usually-shrewd manager Syd King allowed Hilsdon to move across London to Chelsea on a free transfer.

Hilsdon made an immediate impact for Chelsea, who were playing in the Second Division of the Football League at the time, scoring five goals on his debut in a 9-2 win over Glossop. In November 1906, just a few months after his move to Stamford Bridge, Hilsdon was given the nickname ‘Gatling Gun George’ for his “simply unstoppable” shots. He helped Chelsea to promotion to the First Division in his first season, while earning £4 a week, and scored six goals in an FA Cup tie against Worksop the following campaign (a club record which remains unequalled). He was the First Division’s joint second highest scorer in his debut season in the top flight.

Between February 1907 and April 1909 Hilsdon scored an incredible 14 goals in just eight international appearances for England. Chelsea were relegated in 1909/10 and Hilsdon struggled for form with rumours circulating of a serious drink problem. After scoring 107 goals in 164 games for Chelsea, becoming the first player to reach the 100-goal mark for the club, Hilsdon was allowed to return to West Ham in June 1912. A weather vane modelled on Hilsdon is still a feature of Stamford Bridge – it was said to cause great misfortune if removed and, when it had to be removed during renovation in the late 1970s, Chelsea suffered both financial and footballing difficulties.

The East Ham Echo reported that, during his first home game back in east London, Hilsdon “had to run the gauntlet of some very uncomplimentary remarks from part of the stand” during a 1-1 draw against Merthyr Town on 21st September 1912. He responded by being the Hammers’ top scorer in 1912/13 and his lively, jesting, good-natured humour helped maintain a good team spirit. The excellent form of Syd Puddefoot, the new kid on the block the following season, saw Hilsdon lose his place in the side. Charlie Paynter once said “you could say George Hilsdon was the making of Syd”, such was the help the master gave his apprentice. Puddefoot was a regular visitor to the Hilsdon family home in Westbury Road, off Green Street.

Hilsdon returned to score twice against Millwall in a 3-2 home win in April 1914 but the outbreak of World War One that year would curtail his career – he scored 28 goals in 78 appearances in all competitions during his second spell with the Hammers, giving him an overall record of 35 goals in 96 matches for the club.

After trying to avoid active service and reportedly being caught by the police hiding in a chicken run, Hilsdon joined the East Surrey Regiment and served on the Western Front. A mustard gas attack at Arras in 1917 badly damaged Hilsdon’s lungs and, although he had a brief spell playing for Chatham Town after the war, he was forced to retire from the game. He scraped a living in various ways including working as a teaboy on building sites and a period spent with Fred Karno’s Troup, a popular travelling vaudeville act. He was also known to go around several East End pubs raffling boxes of chocolates but arranging for the prize to be won on every occasion by his wife.

George Hilsdon died in Leicester on 10th September 1941 at the age of 56. Only four people (his son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson) attended his funeral, which was paid for by the Football Association. After 74 years in an unmarked grave, Chelsea supporters launched a crowdfunding appeal to pay for a headstone which was laid in October 2015 at the site of his burial, Oadsby and Wigston cemetery in Leicestershire. Chelsea supporter Andy Scott located the site of the grave and led the appeal; he also sought permission to put the headstone in place from George’s family. This was granted by Hilsdon’s grandson, also called George and a West Ham supporter, who was said to be “overwhelmed” at the tribute.


On This Day, 8th August: Birthdays for a Hat-Trick of Hammer of the Year Winners

Happy 52nd Birthday Julian Dicks

Today’s focus falls on a player who was one of my childhood heroes, a hard-as-nails but talented left-back with a thunderous shot. Julian Dicks was born in Bristol on 8th August 1968 and was a £300,000 signing for West Ham United from Birmingham in March 1988. He made his debut at the age of 19 the following month in a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. Dicks scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in February 1989 and followed that up with a goal in the 3-0 win over Millwall in April. The Irons were relegated at the end of the 1988/89 campaign and the manager who had signed Dicks, John Lyall, was sacked as a consequence.

Dicks became the club’s penalty-taker in 1989/90 under Lou Macari, his 14 goals going some way to seeing him voted Hammer of the Year as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. He was also sent off in a 1-0 League Cup fourth round home win over Wimbledon, a game which saw an on-pitch brawl between the opposing players with the fighting sparked by a two-footed tackle by Wimbledon’s Dennis Wise on Dicks. With Billy Bonds having taken over the managerial reigns, Dicks suffered a knee injury in October 1990. In a match at Bristol City, Dicks hit a dip on the edge of the pitch, his foot going over the edge resulting in a loss of feeling in his left leg. He played on and was selected by Bonds for the next two games against Swindon and Blackburn although he had to be substituted in both. A knee operation followed which would keep him out for 14 months.

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By the time Dicks returned from injury, the Hammers had been promoted but were struggling in the top flight – he scored on his return, a penalty to claim a point in a 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United four days before Christmas 1991. The Hammers would be relegated in 1991/92; ‘The Terminator’ was voted Hammer of the Year for the second time and picked up two caps for the England ‘B’ team. The following season saw Dicks regularly at the centre of controversy – he was sent off three times during 1992/93. The first red card came at Newcastle in August 1992 for elbowing former Hammer Franz Carr, while the second came at Wolves two months later for a skirmish with Paul Birch and Steve Bull. Bonds had to run down the touchline to restrain Dicks from further trouble. Dicks’ third red card of the season came at Derby in January 1993 for two bad tackles on Ted McMinn and there were calls for the left-back to be banned from football permanently. Dicks sat out a number of matches through suspension but still scored 14 goals as the Hammers were promoted at the first time of asking.

Dicks left the Hammers in September 1993 to become Graeme Souness’ last signing for Liverpool in a player-plus-cash deal which was valued at £2.5m. The Hammers received left-back David Burrows and midfielder Mike Marsh from the Anfield club and spent the cash on strikers Lee Chapman and Jeroen Boere. During his first spell at West Ham, Dicks had scored 40 goals in 203 appearances. In the weeks before his departure, a training-ground tackle by Dicks broke the leg of new signing Simon Webster. Dicks scored three goals in 28 appearances for Liverpool and has the honour of scoring the last ever Liverpool goal in front of the old standing Kop, a penalty in a 1-0 win against Ipswich in April 1994.

After being isolated by new Liverpool manager Roy Evans, Dicks returned to east London to sign for Harry Redknapp in October 1994. Now sporting a shaven head, the left-back made his second debut for the club in the 2-0 home triumph over Southampton and scored his first goal since returning in a 1-0 home victory over Leicester the following month. Dicks helped the Hammers avoid relegation to ensure a successful first season back at the Boleyn.

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Dicks was superb the following season as the Hammers claimed a top-ten finish in 1995/96 – he even went in goal for more than half the match after Ludek Miklosko was sent off in the 3-0 defeat at Everton. He was again named Hammer of the Year but two controversial incidents at the start of the season – an alleged stamp on the head of Chelsea’s John Spencer (an allegation Dicks denies to this day) and a red card at Arsenal – played their part in ensuring Dicks was denied an England call-up in the build-up to Euro ’96.

Dicks was voted Hammer of the Year for a fourth time in 1996/97 as he played a significant role in ensuring the Hammers survived in the Premier League for another season, his two-goal salvo in a 4-3 win over Tottenham proving particularly inspirational while a penalty fired beyond Peter Schmeichel rescued a point in a 2-2 draw against champions Man Utd. Dicks’ season was ended in March 1997 by another knee injury and this was to keep him out of the entire 1997/98 campaign. He made his return after 18 months out in a 1-0 League Cup second round second leg win over Northampton at the Boleyn Ground but the Hammers were knocked out 2-1 on aggregate. He scored his final goal for the club in January 1999 at home against Swansea to earn an FA Cup third round replay which the Hammers went on to lose at the Vetch Field. His final appearance for the Hammers came in a 4-0 home defeat to Arsenal in February 1999. Over both spells with the Irons, Dicks scored 65 goals in 326 appearances in all competitions – a penalty king, he scored 35 of his spot-kicks while failing to convert just four. He announced his retirement at the age of 30 after eight operations on his left knee. My video below shows all 65 of Julian’s goals in claret and blue.

Dicks tried to come to terms with life outside football as he told Four Four Two: “When I quit West Ham I had enough money in the bank to never work again. Then, in 2001, I got divorced and my wife took it all. We’d set up professional kennels and were looking after other people’s dogs. I had 13 of them at one time and two young girls and there was never any problem. When the wife left she took the dogs too.” Dicks made an attempt at a new career playing golf but had to quit that sport as well due to the problems with his knees. He made a brief return to football in 2001 when he signed for non-league Canvey Island but only made four appearances for the Essex club.

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Dicks became a publican in Langham, Essex for a while before moving to Spain but returned to the non-league scene in January 2009 when he was appointed manager of Wivenhoe Town. Dicks steered the club away from relegation but left at the end of the season. He became manager of Conference club Grays Athletic in September 2009; the club were relegated in his first season and Dicks and Grays parted ways at the end of the 2010/11 season. He returned to the Hammers, where he managed the Ladies team in 2014/15 and was then appointed First Team Coaching Assistant under Super Slaven Bilic in the summer of 2015. He is now in a similar role at newly-promoted West Brom.

Happy Birthday also to 1981 Hammer of the Year Phil Parkes, who turns 70 today. 2006 winner Danny Gabbidon is 41 today.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Aston Villa

Hello and welcome to my 42nd and final match preview of a very different season for West Ham United, one which started nearly 12 months ago, was suspended for three months and ends behind closed doors, has seen another change of manager but, ultimately, ends in survival.

Blast from the past

Christmas Day 1925 – approaching the end of a month which had seen the births of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dick Van Dyke, West Ham United emerged victorious from a First Division encounter against Aston Villa with a 5-2 win in front of 22,218 at the Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers handed a debut to 22-year-old full-back Alfred Earl, who had recently arrived from Summerstown. A tall, constructive, cool and thoughtful defender, he would go on to make 206 appearances across eight seasons for the club. He is remembered also for having eaten four hot cross buns before one Good Friday match which led to him collapsing on the field! He moved on to Streatham Town in 1933 before ending his playing days in France.

Aston Villa travelled to east London with England full-backs Tommy Smart and Tommy Mort in their side; wing-half Frank Moss, outside-right Richard York, outside-left Arthur Dorrell and legendary Villa inside-forward Billy Walker were also England internationals. The Hammers’ goals that day arrived courtesy of a hat-trick from inside-right Stan Earle, with one apiece for centre-forward Vic Watson and inside-left Billy Williams. Watson would go on to be the Irons’ top scorer with 20 goals from 39 games; the Villa goals in this game were scored by the aforementioned Walker and York. Villa would get their revenge just 24 hours later, with a 2-0 Boxing Day victory over the Hammers at Villa Park.

Born in Stratford on the 6th September 1897, hat-trick hero Earle played for England Schoolboys before signing as an amateur with Clapton. He played there with future Hammers team-mate Viv Gibbins but also turned out for Arsenal, still as an amateur, between 1922 and 1924. Earle had made his international debut for England against France on 17th May 1924 and continued to play for Clapton, winning the 1924 FA Amateur Cup.

Three months after his England debut, Earle (pictured) signed for West Ham United and scored six goals in 18 games in his first season. He played in 37 of the 42 league games in this 1925/26 season, as the Hammers developed a fine forward line of Earle, Vic Watson and Jimmy Ruffell, the trio notching 41 goals between them that season. Earle impressed sufficiently to earn his second England cap on 22nd October 1927, against Northern Ireland. After eight seasons at the Boleyn Ground, Earle departed at the end of the 1931/32 campaign having scored 58 goals in 273 appearances in all competitions. He ended his career back at Clapton before coaching amateur club Walthamstow Avenue and managing Leyton FC. Earle died in Colchester on the 26th September 1971 at the age of 74.

The Hammers, who had topped the table in mid-September, went on to finish in 18th place in the 1925/26 Division One season while Villa ended up in sixth. Huddersfield won the league title and Bolton won the FA Cup, beating the relegated Manchester City in the Final.

West Ham United: Ted Hufton, Billy Henderson, Alfred Earl, Jimmy Collins, Jim Barrett, Syd Bishop, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, Billy Williams, Jimmy Ruffell.

Aston Villa: Cyril Spiers, Tommy Smart, Tommy Mort, Jock Johnstone, Vic Milne, Frank Moss, Richard York, George Stephenson, Len Capewell, Billy Walker, Arthur Dorrell.

Club Connections

Former Villa loanee Robert Snodgrass welcomes his old club while ex-Hammer Henri Lansbury returns to east London. Other players who have appeared for both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: David James, Mervyn Day, Les Sealey.

Defenders: Bill Askew, Arthur Marjeram, James Collins, Gary Charles.

Midfielders: Joe Cole, Carlos Sanchez, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Tommy Southren, Nigel Reo-Coker, Nolberto Solano, Stewart Downing, Ray Houghton, Franz Carr, Fred Norris, Tony Scott.

Strikers: Carlton Cole, Marlon Harewood, Robbie Keane, Frank McAvennie, Peter Kyle, Phil Woosnam.

Alan Curbishley played for both clubs and managed the Hammers.

Today’s focus though is on a player who spent four years with Villa before spending a season with the Hammers. John Carew was born in Akershus, Norway, on 5th September 1979 and started his professional career with Valerenga in 1997, winning the Norwegian Cup before moving on to Rosenborg two years later. He made his full international debut on 18th November 1998, becoming the first black player to represent Norway.

Champions League football with Rosenborg brought Carew to the attention of clubs in the big European leagues and he moved to Valencia shortly after representing Norway at Euro 2000. He reached the Champions League Final with the Spanish club in 2001 and won the La Liga title in 2002. Moves to Fulham and West Brom failed to be completed and Carew experienced Italian football in the 2003/04 campaign when he joined Roma on a season-long loan. The 6’5 striker moved to Turkey in 2004, signing for Besiktas in a permanent deal, but was on the move again in the summer of 2005 when he joined French club Lyon. He won the Ligue 1 title in 2005/06 before a move to the Premier League finally came off in January 2007.

Carew signed for Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa in an exchange deal which took Milan Baros to Lyon. The 27-year-old made his Villa debut in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on 31st January 2007 and didn’t have to wait long to score his first goal for his new club, this being the winner on his home debut in a 1-0 win over Alan Curbishley’s West Ham on 3rd February 2007. He scored two more goals in 2006/07 as Villa finished 11th.

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Villa would end up sixth in 2007/08, with Carew finishing as top scorer with 13 goals in 33 games, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Newcastle at Villa Park on 9th February 2008. The following season saw Carew score in the away leg against Odense as Aston Villa won the InterToto Cup and eventually qualified for the UEFA Cup. Carew scored 15 goals in 34 matches and was Villa’s top scorer again in all competitions, despite a back problem restricting his appearances during the winter.

Carew faced competition from Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey in 2009/10 but again finished top scorer for the campaign with 17 goals from 42 appearances in all competitions, including a hat-trick in a 4-2 FA Cup quarter-final win at Reading on 7th March 2010. Carew continued to be a key member of the side as Villa finished sixth for the third consecutive season, and reached the League Cup Final and the FA Cup semi-finals. His final goal for Villa came in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City on 1st May 2010.

O’Neill resigned in August 2010 with Gerard Houllier his replacement; Carew’s relationship with the Frenchman was strained, with the pair arguing in the press, and his first team opportunities were further limited by the big-money signing of Darren Bent in January 2011. Carew’s final appearance for the club came in a 1-1 draw at Birmingham on 16th January 2011. After four years, 131 appearances and 48 goals at Aston Villa, Carew joined Stoke on loan in January 2011 (who he would represent in the FA Cup Final) before being released by Villa at the end of his contract that summer.

The 31-year-old Carew signed for Sam Allardyce’s newly-relegated West Ham United on a free transfer the day before the start of the 2011/12 Championship season. He made his Hammers debut two weeks later, as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Leeds at the Boleyn Ground on 21st August 2011. Carew again appeared from the bench to score his first goal for the club on 1st October 2011, meeting a George McCartney cross with his head to bag the second equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace on an unseasonably hot afternoon in south-east London. Carew was rewarded with a starting place in the next game a fortnight later and repeated the trick, scoring the Irons’ first of the afternoon with a header from a Julien Faubert cross in a 4-0 win over Blackpool at Upton Park.

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The club’s signings of Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te in the January transfer window of 2012 restricted Carew’s first-team opportunities. He made his final appearance for West Ham as a substitute in a 1-1 draw at Bristol City on 17th April 2012. He had scored two goals in 21 appearances for West Ham United but never completed a full 90 minutes for the club – he was either withdrawn early or used as a substitute in all of his appearances for the Hammers. Both of Carew’s goals for West Ham can be viewed in my video below.

Carew was released by West Ham at the end of the 2011/12 season with the club having secured an immediate return to the Premier League. He could not agree personal terms on a return to his first club, Valerenga, back home in Norway in August 2012 and had an unsuccessful trial at Inter Milan in February 2013, with the Italian club harbouring concerns over his fitness. Carew officially retired in October 2013. He had also played 91 times for Norway, scoring 24 goals – his final goal for his country came four days before his last goal for West Ham, in a 3-1 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Cyprus in Oslo on 11th October 2011.

Now 40, Carew has embarked on an acting career. Amongst other projects, he has appeared in a Canadian horror film, a Norwegian television series and also had a role in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil alongside Angelina Jolie and Forest Gate-born actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.


The referee on Sunday will be Michael Oliver. He has refereed 24 of our matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, six draws and 13 defeats. Oliver has refereed the Irons five times this season, in our 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in October (when he awarded the visitors a match-levelling penalty); for our 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham in November; for our 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United in January; for our 3-3 home draw with Brighton in February; and, most recently, for our 1-0 home defeat to Burnley earlier this month.

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Oliver also refereed our 1-1 draw at Leicester in October 2018, when he sent off Mark Noble. His only previous red card issued to a West Ham player came six seasons ago, when he sent off Kevin Nolan in our 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in December 2013. Oliver also refereed our 3-1 home win over Manchester United last season.

Possible line-ups

Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass are doubts, while Aaron Cresswell and Jarrod Bowen sustained minor injuries in midweek which thankfully shouldn’t keep them out of contention. West Ham are unbeaten in their past four home league games against Aston Villa without conceding a goal, winning two and drawing two. The Hammers have won their final Premier League game in each of the previous three seasons.

Aston Villa will be without the injured Tom Heaton, Ahmed Elmohamady, Bjorn Engels and Wesley but Neil Taylor should be available. Villa are currently on a run of 25 successive away games without a clean sheet in the Premier League, since a 0-0 draw with West Brom in January 2016. There have been just seven goals scored in the last seven league meetings between West Ham and Aston Villa.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice; Bowen, Soucek, Noble, Antonio; Haller.

Possible Aston Villa XI: Reina; Guilbert, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane; Trezeguet, Samatta, Grealish.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Man Utd v West Ham

Blast from the past

Today’s blast from the past features a pre-war Second Division victory at the home of this evening’s opponents, Manchester United. It arrived on the 22nd of April 1933, a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in front of 14,958 spectators on the day Sir Henry Royce died at the age of 70 – car manufacturer Royce was the co-founder of Rolls-Royce.

The 1932/33 season was a tempestuous campaign in West Ham United’s history – it was the club’s first season back in the Second Division following relegation the previous campaign. The club were managed at the start of the season by Syd King but, two days after losing their ninth game of the season, King was sacked on 7th November 1932 having been reputed to have had problems with alcohol and having previously insulted a director at a board meeting after turning up drunk. King had taken the Hammers’ relegation the previous season so badly that it had affected his mental health and, a month after his sacking, he committed suicide by drinking alcohol laced with a “corrosive substance”. An inquest into his death concluded that he had been suffering from paranoia and that he had taken his life “whilst of unsound mind”.

A run of four wins in the last five games moved the club out of the relegation places with one game of the season remaining. This run included the Hammers’ only away win of the season, at Old Trafford against Manchester United. The winning goal in the 2-1 victory was scored by 24-year-old Arthur Wilson, a Newcastle-born inside-right, who many years later recalled the goal:

“It was a real belter from 30 yards. The ball hit the underside of the bar and struck the goalkeeper on the back of the neck before crossing the line. The force of the shot knocked him to the floor.”

Jackie Morton (pictured) scored the Irons’ other goal, while Neil Dewar struck for Manchester United. West Ham’s players were promised a continental tour if they managed to beat relegation – this did not materialise.

West Ham were by now under the management of Charlie Paynter – the second manager in West Ham’s history, Paynter first became involved with the club in 1897 and worked his way up from reserve-team trainer in 1902 to first-team trainer under King in 1911. Paynter remained West Ham manager for 18 years, from 1932 until 1950 when he was made an ‘ambassador-at-large’ and replaced as first-team manager by Ted Fenton.

The Irons finished 1932/33 in 20th place in the Second Division, just one point clear of relegation and having not been higher than 16th all season. Manchester United finished sixth but the Hammers’ Old Trafford triumph completed a double over the Red Devils after a 3-1 win at Upton Park the previous December. West Ham’s defence was also the poorest in the league, conceding 93 goals in 42 matches. The club’s top scorer was Vic Watson with 28 goals; 24 in the league and four in the FA Cup. The Irons did reach the semi-final of the FA Cup though, where they lost to eventual winners Everton. Stoke topped the Second Division and Arsenal won the league title.

Manchester United: John Moody, John Mellor, Henry Topping, Jimmy J Brown, Thomas Frame, Ernest Vincent, Tommy Manley, Ernest Hine, Neil Dewar, William McDonald, George McLachlan.

West Ham United: Pat McMahon, Alf Chalkley, Albert Walker, Joe Cockroft, Jim Barrett, Jimmy Collins, Jim Wood, Arthur Wilson, Vic Watson, Len Goulden, Jackie Morton.

Club Connections

West Ham United manager David Moyes returns to the club he managed for most of the 2013/14 season, while Manchester United coach Michael Carrick welcomes his first professional club to Old Trafford. A largely impressive list of players join the pair in having represented both West Ham United and Manchester United over the years. These include:

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll, Les Sealey.

Defenders: Noel Cantwell, Patrice Evra, Fred Milnes, Jonathan Spector, Rio Ferdinand.

Midfielders: James McCrae, Bill McCartney, Paul Ince, Ralph Milne, Luke Chadwick, Ravel Morrison.

Strikers: Charlie Mackie, Billy Grassam, Stuart Pearson, Javier Hernandez, Ted MacDougall, Teddy Sheringham, David Bellion, Carlos Tevez.

In addition, Dave Sexton played for the Hammers before going on to manage the Red Devils. Lou Macari played for the Old Trafford club before managing the Irons.

Another ex-Hammers player to go on to manage Manchester United is the oldest living Hammer, Frank O’Farrell. Born in Cork on the 9th October 1927, O’Farrell dreamed of becoming a locomotive driver like his father Patrick and supplemented the wages he earned as a fireman on the Cork-Dublin main line by playing semi-professional football for Cork United. He replaced Tommy Moroney in the Cork side when Moroney joined West Ham in 1947 and later followed him to Upton Park – at the age of 20, O’Farrell was spotted by a West Ham scout named Ben Ives and signed for Charlie Paynter’s Hammers in January 1948.

After playing over 50 reserve matches, the 22-year-old O’Farrell made his debut for the Hammers on 28th September 1950 in a 2-1 win over Colchester in the Essex Professional Cup before making his league bow two months later under Ted Fenton in a 4-1 defeat at Notts County on 25th November 1950. A wing-half, he became a first-team regular in 1951/52, making 44 appearances as the Hammers finished 12th in the Second Division. His first goal for the Irons came in a 3-1 loss at Blackburn on 22nd December 1951. O’Farrell bagged his first Upton Park goal in a 2-1 FA Cup third round victory against Blackpool on 12th January 1952 and scored his first league goal in east London in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest on 22nd March 1952. He made his debut for Ireland on 7th May 1952 in a 6-0 defeat to Austria in Vienna.

The 1952/53 campaign saw West Ham drop to 14th, with O’Farrell making 42 appearances and scoring one goal, in a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest on 18th October 1952. He also scored his first goal for his country as Ireland wreaked revenge on the Austrians by beating them 4-0 at Dublin’s Dalymount Park on 25th March 1953, O’Farrell scoring his side’s fourth with ten minutes to go. He scored his second and final goal for his country in a 5-3 defeat to France in Dublin on 4th October 1953.

O’Farrell married local East Ham girl Ann in 1954 in St Anthony’s Church in Forest Gate. He played 22 times without scoring in 1953/54 with West Ham finishing 13th, and made 29 appearances in 1954/55, scoring once in a 5-2 home thrashing of Bristol Rovers on 11th September 1954. The Hammers had finished eighth in 1954/55 but dropped to 16th the following season, with O’Farrell playing 47 matches. Both his goals that season were scored at the Boleyn Ground, the first in a 6-1 trouncing of Notts County on 3rd September 1955 and in a 3-0 Southern Floodlit Cup win against Crystal Palace on 10th October 1955.

O’Farrell’s final goal for the Hammers came in a 1-1 home draw with Liverpool on 3rd September 1956, with his last match for the club coming five days later in another 1-1 home draw, this time with Rotherham. Having scored eight goals in 213 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United, O’Farrell joined First Division Preston in November 1956 in a swap deal involving centre-forward Eddie Lewis. While at the club, he helped North End to the runners-up spot in the top flight in 1958; meanwhile in the same season, his former club finally achieved promotion back to the First Division.

O’Farrell made his ninth and final appearance for Ireland on 10th May 1959 against Czechoslovakia while he was a Preston player. He was forced to retire as a player due to injury in 1961 but swiftly became manager at Southern League outfit Weymouth. Four years later he took over the hotseat at Fourth Division Torquay and led the Gulls to promotion in his first season in charge before stabilising the club’s Third Division position in the following two campaigns. In December 1968 he was appointed as manager of struggling First Division side Leicester – he couldn’t arrest the Foxes’ slide though and the club were relegated but they did make a losing appearance in that season’s FA Cup Final, beaten 1-0 by Manchester City. Leicester missed out on an immediate return to the top flight by just two points the following season but O’Farrell led them to the Second Division title and promotion in 1970/71.

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Following this achievement O’Farrell (pictured above on the left with his assistant at Old Trafford, and fellow former Hammer, Malcolm Musgrove) was appointed as manager of Manchester United. Since winning the European Cup in 1968, the Red Devils had finished 11th in 1969, leading to Sir Matt Busby stepping down to be replaced by Wilf McGuinness. United finished the following season in eighth place and Busby returned to the top job midway through the 1970/71 campaign as the club replicated their eighth position of the previous season. After initial speculation that Jock Stein would replace Busby, it was O’Farrell who was named as the club’s new manager in June 1971. He started well and United were top of the table at Christmas and held a ten-point lead at one stage before seven successive defeats brought the club’s season crashing down and they finished, again, in eighth position. The softly-spoken Irishman struggled to control the increasing excesses of George Best and team morale suffered as a consequence. O’Farrell has said of the brilliant but mercurial Ulsterman:

“George Best was like every other player except that he was much more in the public domain. George Best was big news. There were times when I didn’t know where he was. He would be away for a couple of days, and I’d ring his digs and ring his house, but no-one knew where he was. Eventually he would come back, and the other players got annoyed when I picked him because they would think ‘Why has he been picked when we have trained and he has been away?’ Well, quite simply I had to pick my best players and the rest of the team weren’t good enough without George. A half-fit George Best was better than a lot of the team and I owed it to the fans and to the team to pick the best players. Every time I had reservations about picking George, I would do it anyway because I knew he could win you a game.”

After failing to win any of the opening nine matches of the 1972/73 season, United’s form continued to be patchy at best until a 5-0 defeat at Crystal Palace in mid-December 1972 finally resulted in the end of O’Farrell’s tenure at Old Trafford and he was replaced by Tommy Docherty.

O’Farrell became manager of Cardiff in November 1973, but quit in April 1974 to take the manager’s post with the Iranian national team who he led to the 1976 Asian Cup. He returned to Torquay as manager in November 1976, moving upstairs to become General Manager in March 1977 when Mike Green was appointed as manager. He became Torquay manager again in June 1981 before once more returning to his General Manager post on the appointment of Bruce Rioch in June 1982. He remained in this role until 1983, when he retired from football but continued living in Torquay and occasionally worked as a scout for Everton and Bolton. He also ran a nursing home with his wife and has been active in church affairs. Now 92 years of age, O’Farrell still lives in Devon and celebrated 60 years of marriage with Ann in 2014. Interviewed last year, O’Farrell said:

“Although I’ve had to give up driving, I’m generally well for my age and can’t have any complaints about my career or my life. Well, maybe there’s only one small tinge of disappointment – I never got to drive that steam train!”


Wednesday’s referee is 39-year-old Paul Tierney. The Lancashire-based official has refereed the Hammers on seven previous occasions. His most recent Irons appointment was our 2-0 defeat at Everton in October. He also refereed our 2-0 home win against Norwich in August and was in charge for our 2-0 defeat to Everton in east London in March 2019. He also refereed our 3-0 win at Newcastle in December 2018.

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Tierney’s first West Ham appointment was for the 1-1 draw with Everton in November 2015 which saw James McCarthy’s tackle on Dimitri Payet put the Frenchman out of action for two months (pictured above). His second Irons game was our 0-0 draw at West Brom in September 2017, when he chose to issue just a yellow card to Ben Foster for his late tackle on Javier Hernandez. He also refereed our goalless draw at Shrewsbury in the third round of the FA Cup in January 2018.

Possible line-ups

Manchester United are without Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe, while Luke Shaw is a doubt. Harry Maguire should be available. The Red Devils are still in the hunt for a top-four finish and will move into the top four should they avoid defeat; they have not ended a full round of fixtures in the Champions League places since mid-September.

West Ham United are without Robert Snodgrass while Ryan Fredericks is a doubt. The Hammers, who require one point to secure survival, have picked up just two points at Old Trafford in their last ten visits, stretching back to May 2007. West Ham are looking to complete their first league double over Manchester United since 2006/07 – the Irons won September’s reverse fixture 2-0. The Hammers have scored at least three goals in six different league matches in 2020, a joint high alongside Manchester City and Manchester United.

Possible Manchester United XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Williams; Pogba, McTominay; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Noble, Fornals; Antonio.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Watford

Blast from the past

Today’s focus sees us travel back nearly 118 years, to the 18th October 1902 – the first Borstal (youth offenders’ institution) had opened two days previously in Borstal, Kent. West Ham United, meanwhile, secured a 3-1 victory over Watford in front of 4,000 at the Memorial Grounds.

21-year-old centre-forward Sidney Sugden lined up for his one and only West Ham appearance in this match. John Farrell had played in the opening five games of 1902/03 but was unfit so Sugden, then playing for Ilford, volunteered to fill the spot. Described by a contemporary reporter as “a wonderfully dashing player with a splendid turn of speed and a deadly shot, but not a good team man”, Sugden was so keen to remain an amateur that he had declined an offer from Aston Villa, giants of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. He did eventually sign on as a professional with Nottingham Forest of the First Division after his solitary appearance for the Irons and was their top scorer in 1903/04. He returned to the Southern League First Division in 1905, spending three years at QPR before a season each with Brentford and Southend.

Sugden wasn’t on the scoresheet in this 3-1 win over Watford though – 21-year-old inside-right and captain Billy Grassam (pictured) bagged a brace with inside-left Billy Barnes scoring the other. In a week which has seen Michail Antonio become the latest prestigious member of the Hammers’ Hat-Trick Club, it’s worth noting that Scotsman Grassam was West Ham United’s first ever hat-trick hero, scoring four goals in a 7-0 rout of Gravesend United on the opening day of the 1900/01 Southern League First Division season. He was also the Hammers’ first scorer of a hat-trick in the FA Cup, in a 3-2 fifth qualifying round replay win at Clapton Orient on 12th December 1900. Grassam would top the Hammers’ scoring charts for 1902/03, with 19 goals from 30 matches, but would move on at the end of the season and have spells with Manchester United, Celtic and Leyton. He returned for a second spell in east London in 1905/06 before departing for Brentford in 1909. Bill Grassam died in New York in 1943.

Syd King’s Hammers would end the 1902/03 Southern League First Division season in tenth position, while Watford would finish 15th and were relegated as a result of Test Matches. Southampton topped the division, The Wednesday won the First Division title and Bury won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Fred Griffiths, James Dow, George Eccles, James Bigden, Tommy McAteer, Joe Blythe, John Campbell, Bill Grassam, Sidney Sugden, Billy Barnes, Billy Linward.

Club Connections

Former Hammer Domingos Quina is now on Watford’s books. Others to have represented both clubs, divided by position, include:

Goalkeepers: Billy Biggar, David James, Ted Hufton, Perry Suckling, Manuel Almunia, Joe Webster, 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, Mauro Zarate, Jack Foster, Roger Hugo, Billy Jennings, 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 much-travelled Scottish centre-forward who represented both clubs. Peter Kyle was born in Cadder, East Dunbartonshire, on 21st December 1878 and represented Glasgow and District schools before playing for Glasgow Parkhead. He had been rejected after trial periods with Clyde, Hearts and Thames Ironworks (later to be West Ham United) but did turn out for junior club Larkhall Thistle.

Having reportedly been rejected by Clyde due to possessing a fierce temper, Kyle joined First Division Liverpool in 1899 for £100, playing five league games for the club. Unhappy with mainly reserve team football, he dropped down into the Second Division to sign for Leicester in the summer of 1900. After just over a year in the East Midlands, Kyle was on the move again, signing for West Ham United in the autumn of 1901.

The 22-year-old Kyle (pictured), a heavy-set centre-forward who was over 6’ in height, made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 FA Cup third qualifying round win at Leyton on 2nd November 1901 – it was the only time he would savour victory in a West Ham shirt. He made his only Southern League appearance for the club in a 2-1 defeat at QPR the following week and his final match for the Irons came in a 2-1 FA Cup fourth qualifying round loss at home against Grays United on 16th November 1901. After just three games for West Ham, Kyle was shipped out to fellow Southern League outfit Kettering in a swap deal for Welsh international full-back Bill Jones in December 1901. Jones would spend the remainder of the 1901/02 season in east London, making 15 appearances for the Hammers – Jones was tragically killed in action during World War One, in May 1918, and is buried at the Doiran Military Cemetery in the north of Greece, near the south-east shore of Lake Doiran.

Kyle, meanwhile, represented Kettering in the Southern League before appearing for Wellingborough. He returned to Scotland in September 1902, playing once for Aberdeen before joining Cowdenbeath three months later. He moved to Hearts in the summer of 1903 and represented Larkhall-based side Royal Albert, Port Glasgow Athletic and Partick Thistle in 1904. Kyle returned to the Southern League in 1905, signing for Tottenham – the extrovert centre-forward was involved in an incident which validated those clubs who had been previously concerned about Kyle’s temperament. He was suspended by his club in the spring of 1906 for fighting with Spurs team-mate Chris Carrick, an incident which was deemed “a breach of the club’s training rules”. Teesside-born Carrick had also played for West Ham, but during the 1904/05 season so he had not been a team-mate of Kyle’s at the Hammers.

Kyle was swiftly transferred to First Division Woolwich Arsenal in April 1906 and proved there was little doubt over his footballing ability, scoring 22 goals in 60 senior outings – he was also called up by his country to take part in a trial match in 1907 but never played a full international game for Scotland. Kyle was Arsenal’s top scorer in the top flight in 1907/08 but, with the club strapped for cash, he was sold to First Division rivals Aston Villa before the end of that campaign. By October 1908 the wayward striker was on the move again, staying in the top flight to sign for Sheffield United. His old failing came to the fore once again though when he was sacked for failing to train properly with the Blades and he returned to Scotland with former club Royal Albert in the summer of 1909.

Kyle returned to Southern League football with Watford at the age of 30 in November 1909. He scored four goals in 13 appearances but was released in February 1910 for what was, according to the West Herts Post, “utterly disgraceful and demoralising conduct” which also involved team-mates Frank Cotterill and Jock Grieve. Kyle returned to Scotland to join Royal Albert for a third spell and finished his career at Raith Rovers, whom he joined in July 1911. Peter Kyle died on 19th January 1957 at the age of 78.


The referee on Friday will be Martin Atkinson. 2019/20 is Atkinson’s 15th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed 26 of our league matches, officiating in 12 wins for the Hammers, three draws and 11 defeats. Atkinson is pictured below, refereeing our 4-2 home defeat to Watford in September 2016.

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Atkinson’s Hammers appointments last season were our 3-1 win at Everton in September 2018 and our 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham in October 2018. He refereed our 1-0 win at Southampton in December, our 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in March and, most recently, our 3-2 home win over Chelsea earlier this month.

Possible line-ups

For West Ham United, Robert Snodgrass misses out through injury, while Felipe Anderson is a doubt. If selected, Mark Noble will be making his 500th West Ham appearance; he has scored three goals in his last two league games against Watford. The Hammers have won three of their past four league meetings against this evening’s visitors, as many as in their previous nine against the Hornets.

For Watford, Daryl Janmaat, Isaac Success and Gerard Deulofeu are out injured. Troy Deeney is expected to be fit to play. Watford have recorded only eight league wins this term, with four of them coming against the current bottom three.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Noble, Fornals; Antonio.

Possible Watford XI: Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Dawson, Masina; Capoue, Hughes; Sarr, Doucoure, Welbeck; Deeney.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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