Dan Coker's Match Preview

Welcome to a (potential) new series of articles designed to fill the gap created by international weekends – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to host Lithuania at Wembley, we look back to West Ham’s legendary centre-half Ken Brown. Ken was born in Forest Gate on 16th February 1934 – he played for local Dagenham side Neville United before signing professional forms with West Ham. He made his debut for the Hammers five days after his 19th birthday as a replacement for Malcolm Allison in a 1-1 draw at Rotherham on 21st February 1953 and made his first appearance at Upton Park a week later, helping the Irons to a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Blackburn in front of 19,542. Ken made four appearances in 1952/53, playing alongside the likes of Ernie Gregory and Frank O’Farrell as West Ham finished 14th in the Second Division.

Ken struggled for games over the following four seasons, not making a single appearance in 1953/54 due to national service before playing 23 matches in 1954/55. He played a total of seven league games in the following two seasons before emerging as a regular at centre-half in the 1957/58 season. By now 25 years old, Ken became a mainstay of the side that won promotion back to the top flight as Second Division champions – Ken only missed one league game in that triumphant campaign.

1958/59 gave Ken the opportunity to pit his wits against the finest strikers in the land, and he was an ever-present as the Hammers finished sixth in their first season back in the First Division after a 26-year absence. September 1958 had seen Ken play alongside a 17-year-old debutant by the name of Bobby Moore in a 3-2 home win over Manchester United that briefly saw West Ham top of the table. Ken was voted Hammer of the Year in 1959.

On 18th November 1959, the 27-year-old Ken deservedly won an England cap, wearing the number 5 shirt as England beat Northern Ireland 2-1 in a Home International Championship match in front of 60,000 at Wembley. In the previous year’s World Cup, held in Sweden, England had been eliminated at the group stage while Northern Ireland had reached the quarter-finals before losing 4-0 to a Just Fontaine-inspired France. Ken was given his opportunity by manager Walter Winterbottom, who was seeking a long-term replacement for the legendary Billy Wright.

England took the lead in the 16th minute through Hibs centre-forward Joe Baker. The Liverpool-born Baker had spent virtually his entire childhood growing up in Motherwell, Scotland and is notable for being the first player to have played for England without having previously played in the English league system. He went on to play for Torino, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest, Sunderland, Hibs again and Raith Rovers before two spells as manager of Albion Rovers.

Burnley legend Jimmy McIlroy saw a first-half penalty saved by Sheffield Wednesday’s Ron Springett, who was also making his England debut, but Luton’s Billy Bingham did score an equaliser with just two minutes remaining. The Three Lions were not to be denied though, Bolton’s inside-forward Ray Parry scoring in the last seconds. Parry was an FA Cup winner with the Trotters in 1958 before later moving on to Blackpool and Bury.

England: Ron Springett (Sheff Wed), Don Howe (West Brom), Tony Allen (Stoke), Ronnie Clayton (captain, Blackburn), Ken Brown (West Ham), Ron Flowers (Wolves), John Connelly (Burnley), Johnny Haynes (Fulham), Joe Baker (Hibs), Ray Parry (Bolton), Eddie Holliday (Middlesbrough).

Northern Ireland: Harry Gregg (Man Utd), Richard Keith (Newcastle), Alfred McMichael (Newcastle), Danny Blanchflower (captain, Tottenham), Willie Cunningham (Leicester), Bertie Peacock (Celtic), Billy Bingham (Luton), Johnny Crossan (Sparta Rotterdam), Wilbur Cush (Leeds), Jimmy McIlroy (Burnley), Peter McParland (Aston Villa).

Both England goalscorers passed away in 2003, Parry aged 67 and Baker after suffering a heart attack during a charity golf tournament at the age of 63. England’s captain in this game, Ronnie Clayton, passed away in 2010 while Johnny Haynes died in 2005 and John Connelly in 2012. Springett and Don Howe both passed away in 2015.

After winning his sole England cap, Ken went on to bigger and better things at club level. He was again ever-present in 1960/61 before ending his long wait for his first Hammers goal on 6th October 1962 in a 5-0 home win over Birmingham. He only had to wait five months for his second, that coming in a 3-1 home victory over Manchester United on 18th March 1963. Ken became an FA Cup winner at the age of 30 in 1964 before winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following season – he played in each and every game en route to these significant successes, including both Finals at Wembley. His two other goals in a Hammers shirt came in a 2-1 home win over Blackpool on 23rd April 1965 and a 2-1 defeat at Northampton on 23rd October 1965. Ken was also part of the side which reached the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1966 and the two-legged League Cup Final in the same year as the Hammers were beaten on aggregate by Borussia Dortmund and West Brom in the respective competitions.

Ken’s final game for the Hammers was also against West Brom in the League Cup, this time in the second leg of the semi-final on 8th February 1967. The game at Upton Park was a 2-2 draw but, having been defeated in the first leg, the Irons lost 6-2 on aggregate. Ken Brown made 474 appearances over 14 years for West Ham United in all competitions, scoring four goals – he received a testimonial in May 1967 before departing, at the age of 33, for Torquay for a fee of £4,000 where he teamed up with friend and former team-mate John Bond.

Ken played 42 league games for Torquay, scoring once, before moving to Hereford in May 1969 for one final season as a player. Ken became John Bond’s trainer at Bournemouth in 1970 before following Bond again, this time to Norwich in November 1973. Ken was assistant manager at Carrow Road until October 1980 when Bond moved to Manchester City and Ken was promoted to manager at Norwich. Although unable to prevent relegation in his first season, Ken led the Canaries back to the top flight at the first attempt in 1981/82 and won the League Cup in 1985, although relegation followed later that year. Norwich bounced back again as Second Division champions in 1985/86 and Ken led the club to fifth place in the top flight the following season, at that point the highest finishing position in the club’s history. Brown was sacked in November 1987 after a poor run of form but his legacy of spotting talent in the lower leagues and in the reserve sides of top flight clubs had given Norwich the likes of Bryan Gunn, Dave Watson, Steve Bruce, Ian Crook and Mike Phelan.

Ken had one game in caretaker charge of Shrewsbury in December 1987 but decided against taking the job permanently. He was appointed manager of Plymouth in the summer of 1988 and signed his son, Kenny, from Norwich who would later be sold to West Ham. Ken was controversially sacked in February 1990. He later worked as a scout for England managers Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan, whilst maintaining his business interest in the Lakenham Leisure Centre in Norwich.

As well as being father to Kenny, Ken also has a daughter, Amanda, a former tennis international and twice winner of the Australian Open Girls’ singles championships. Ken, now 83, had his medals from the 1964 FA Cup Final, 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final and 1985 League Cup Final stolen after a burglary at his home in April 2015. He is pictured below at the Sunderland game last season with Sir Geoff Hurst.

England v Lithuania

England take on Lithuania this weekend in a World Cup 2018 qualifier. The two nations have met just twice before, in qualification for the 2016 European Championships. England won their previous match at Wembley against the Lithuanians 4-0 – Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the seventh minute before Danny Welbeck struck right on half-time. Raheem Sterling scored the third in the 58th minute and Harry Kane completed the scoring in the 73rd minute barely two minutes after coming on for his England debut.

England: Joe Hart, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines, Jordan Henderson (Harry Kane), Michael Carrick, Fabian Delph, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck (Theo Walcott), Wayne Rooney (Ross Barkley).

Lithuania: Giedrius Arlauskis, Tomas Mikuckis, Tadas Kijanskas, Georgas Freidgeimas, Vytautas Andriuskevicius, Marius Zaliukas, Arturas Zulpa, Karolis Chvedukas, Saulius Mikoliunas, Deivydas Matulevicius, Fiodor Cernych.

P.S. Thanks to Kenny Brown for his assistance with a couple of points in this article. I’m delighted that Kenny has agreed to do an interview with me for the site, so keep an eye out for that in the future!