Dan Coker's Match Preview

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Croatia in the League A Group 4 Nations League decider at Wembley, we look back at a former Hammers and England inside-forward – Billy Moore. Billy was born in Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on 6th October 1894 – his father was a beer retailer. Billy was a colliery labourer working above ground by the age of 17, by which time he was living with his grandmother in Seaton Deleval. He played for Seaton Delaval before signing for Sunderland as an amateur in November 1912, turning professional during the First World War. In December 1917, at the age of 23, he married Lena in Gateshead.

After 46 league appearances and eleven goals for the First Division Wearsiders, Billy dropped down a division to sign for West Ham United in May 1922. He made his debut for the Hammers at the age of 27 in a 2-1 defeat to Bradford in front of 27,000 at Upton Park on 26th August 1922 and scored his first goal for the club in his fourth match, a 2-1 defeat at Derby on 4th September 1922. He followed that up with his first Boleyn goals five days later, notching a double in a 4-0 win over Rotherham County (later to merge with Rotherham Town to form the Rotherham United we know today).

1922/23 was to transpire to be a significant season for West Ham, one of the most memorable in the first half-century of the club’s existence. The Hammers would be promoted to the First Division for the first time, finishing as runners-up in the Second Division to Notts County, and would reach the first ever FA Cup Final held at Wembley. Billy made 51 appearances, turning in many sterling displays and scoring 20 goals, including a hat-trick in a 6-0 league win at Leicester on 15th February 1923 and a brace in the 5-2 FA Cup Semi-Final win over Derby at Stamford Bridge. The Irons would lose the Cup Final 2-0 to Bolton in front of a recorded crowd of 126,047 on 28th April 1923, but could take solace in their upcoming place at football’s top table for the following season. Billy’s hat-trick at Leicester would be worth its weight in gold as the Irons secured their promotion by virtue of goal average over none other than Leicester.

For Billy Moore, that 1922/23 season took on greater personal significance. Almost a month after the FA Cup Final, the 28-year-old made his England debut playing inside-right in a 3-1 win in Stockholm against Sweden on 24th May 1923. In doing so, he became only the fourth West Ham United player to represent England. Billy had won amateur caps against Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, and could have done little more to impress on his first full international appearance, scoring twice against the Swedes! His first gave England the lead after 38 minutes, while his second was the Three Lions’ third to clinch the 3-1 victory in the 78th minute. Despite such a great debut, it was to be Billy’s only full England cap. Billy remains the England player with the best ever goals per game ratio.

A nimble, quick-witted player with a low centre of gravity at 5’7 who loved to drift into the opposition penalty area, Billy made 39 appearances in 1923/24, scoring ten goals as the Hammers finished 13th in their maiden First Division season. A highlight for Billy during the Irons’ first top flight season was scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest on 22nd December 1923. Team-mate Jimmy Ruffell stated, “You wouldn’t wish for a better man alongside you than Billy Moore. He was nippy and clever and always surprising people. He didn’t look tough, but he was wiry.”

He played 38 games in 1924/25, again scoring ten goals. He struck twice in a 4-1 win over former club Sunderland at the Boleyn on 20th December 1924 and bagged another brace in a 4-0 home victory over Manchester City on 7th February 1925. Billy’s final goal for the Hammers came in a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough on 7th April 1928; his final match in claret and blue was as a 34-year-old in a 2-1 win over Birmingham at Upton Park on 23rd March 1929. Billy Moore had scored 48 goals in 202 appearances for West Ham United.

After retiring, he became assistant trainer at the club under Syd King in 1929; he was appointed Trainer-in-Chief in 1932. By the outbreak of the Second World War, Billy was working as Head Trainer and a groundsman at West Ham and living at 116 Plashet Road, just round the corner from Upton Park tube station. He retired in May 1960, having spent 38 years with the club both as a player and as a coach under King, Charlie Paynter and Ted Fenton. Two years earlier, in 1958, he’d realised his greatest personal ambition in seeing the Hammers return to the top flight after an absence of 25 years.

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Billy and his wife, Lena, were regular visitors to Upton Park in the 1960s and also journeyed on many away trips in which Billy acted as unofficial courier, making sure everyone was accounted for on the coach which carried club officials and guests. Billy Moore passed away on 26th September 1968 at the age of 73.

England v Croatia

England face Croatia this afternoon in the deciding match of League A Group 4 of the 2018 Nations League – it will be the tenth meeting between the two nations. The first competitive meeting between the pair resulted in a 4-2 win for the Three Lions in front of 57,047 at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz on 21st June 2004, in their final Group B match of the 2004 European Championships. Britney Spears was number one with ‘Everytime’, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban topped the UK box office and Wimbledon were officially renamed as Milton Keynes Dons.

England were dealt an early blow when Hertha Berlin’s Niko Kovac gave Otto Baric’s Croatia the lead in the fifth minute. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England equalised through Manchester United’s Paul Scholes five minutes before the interval before Everton wonderkid Wayne Rooney gave England the lead with a strike from distance right on half-time.

Rooney raced clear to make it 3-1 after 68 minutes but Juventus’ Igor Tudor pulled one back five minutes later. Former Hammer Frank Lampard Junior wrapped up the win with 11 minutes left to make it 4-2. England would be knocked out by hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Croatia: Tomislav Butina (Club Brugge), Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin), Dario Simic (Milan), Boris Zivkovic (captain, Stuttgart), Robert Kovac (Bayern Munich), Igor Tudor (Juventus), Dovani Roso (Maccabi Haifa), Milan Rapaic (Ancona), Niko Kovac (Hertha Berlin), Tomislav Sokota (Benfica), Dado Prso (Monaco).

Subs: Ivica Mornar (Portsmouth) for Robert Kovac; Ivica Olic (CSKA Moscow) for Rapaic; Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk) for Simic.

England: David James (Man City), Gary Neville (Man Utd), Sol Campbell (Arsenal), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Michael Owen (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Everton).

Subs: Ledley King (Tottenham) for Scholes; Darius Vassell (Aston Villa) for Rooney; Phil Neville (Man Utd) for Lampard.

The previous articles in the series are:

Vic Watson
Jack Tresadern
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Frank Lampard Senior
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Paul Goddard
Stuart Pearce
Frank Lampard Junior
Joe Cole
David James
Robert Green