Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
Upton Park, 14th February 1981 – proof that West Ham United aren’t always on the receiving end of Valentine’s Day Massacres. Fresh from reaching the League Cup final four days earlier, the Hammers maintained the feel-good factor with a chastening of Chelsea in front of 35,164. Sir Trevor Brooking scored twice, while there was a goal apiece for David Cross and Alan Devonshire.
The Hammers would go on to be crowned champions of Division Two by 13 points while Chelsea would finish 12th.
West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Jimmy Neighbour, Geoff Pike, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Paul Goddard, David Cross.
Chelsea: Petar Borota, Gary Locke, Mickey Droy, Gary Chivers, Dennis Rofe, Timmy Elmes (Phil Driver), John Bumstead, Mike Fillery, Peter Rhoades-Brown, Colin Lee, Alan Mayes.
A decent number of players have represented both West Ham United and Chelsea. These include: Craig Forrest, Tal Ben Haim, Len Goulden, Wayne Bridge, Frank Lampard Junior, Demba Ba, Alan Dickens, Clive Allen, Scott Minto, Joe Cole, Scott Parker, Carlton Cole, Peter Brabrook, Yossi Benayoun, Ian Pearce, Jimmy Greaves, Joe Kirkup, Pop Robson, Ron Tindall, Glen Johnson, John Sissons and Jon Harley.
Ron Greenwood and Gianfranco Zola played for Chelsea and managed West Ham, while Sir Geoff Hurst and Dave Sexton both played for the Hammers and managed the Blues. Avram Grant has managed both clubs.
Today’s focus though is on a striker who had a highly successful six years at Chelsea sandwiched in between two spells with West Ham United. George Hilsdon was born in Bromley-by-Bow on the 10th August 1885 and 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 7 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 8 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” but responded by being the Hammers’ top scorer in 1912/13. The excellent form of Syd Puddefoot, the new kid on the block the following season, saw Hilsdon lose his place in the side. He 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 Hilsdon’s 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 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. There is no stone to mark his grave.
The referee on Wednesday will be Andre Marriner; Chelsea’s visit to Upton Park will be Marriner’s second match in charge of the Hammers this term, following our 2-0 defeat at Anfield. Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has refereed seven of our league matches, officiating in one win for the Hammers, two draws and four defeats.
Sam Allardyce will be without the injured Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll while Morgan Amalfitano serves the final match of his three-game suspension.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is without the suspended Nemanja Matic and the injured Jon Obi Mikel. Brazilian midfielder Ramires is expected to keep his place, while his compatriot Oscar could be restored to the side in place of Kurt Zouma.
Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Kouyate, Song, Noble; Downing; Valencia, Sakho.
Possible Chelsea XI: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!