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 Belgium in the League A Group 2 Nations League match in Leuven, we look back at West Ham United’s first ever England goalkeeper – Arthur Edward (Ted) Hufton. Ted was born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire on 25th November 1892 – he was the eldest of seven siblings (one of whom tragically died in childhood), and his father was a clerk. The family moved to Sheffield and Ted became a moulder’s apprentice. He began his junior career playing for local works side Atlas and Norfolk in Sheffield and joined Sheffield United in August 1912. He soon seized the first-team spot but his meteoric rise was followed by a temporary decline as a broken nose suffered in a practice match led to Harry Gough going on to play for the Blades in the 1915 FA Cup Final and later gaining England recognition. Ted joined the Coldstream Guards during the First World War and suffered shrapnel wounds whilst in action in France.
Having made 54 guest appearances for the club during World War One, Ted signed permanently for West Ham United in March 1919 for £350 and made his Football League debut for Syd King’s Second Division Hammers at the age of 26 in a 1-1 draw with Lincoln in front of 20,000 at Upton Park on 30th August 1919. Joe Hughes, West Ham’s regular goalkeeper before Hufton’s arrival, asked King if he could be placed on the transfer list – when King enquired as to why, Hughes allegedly pointed to Hufton and stated, “He’s my governor – let me go. He’s a better goalie than I’ll ever be”. Hughes joined Bolton soon after.
Standing at 5’10 tall and weighing in at 12st, Hufton made 42 appearances as West Ham finished seventh in their first season after being elected to the Football League, and 39 appearances followed in the next campaign as the club progressed to fifth. Hufton saved 11 of 18 penalties he faced during his first two seasons at West Ham, earning him the nickname of ‘Penalty King’. The 1920/21 season also saw Hufton receive the notable record of not conceding more than two goals in any league match he played, the best record in the country that year. The club’s upward trajectory continued with a fourth-place finish as Hufton made 36 appearances in 1921/22. Ted married Evelyn Grayson in September 1922.
The 1922/23 campaign was a stellar one for West Ham United; Hufton made 48 appearances as the club secured promotion to the First Division and went all the way to the FA Cup Final, the first to be staged at Wembley. The Hammers would lose 2-0 to Bolton in the ‘White Horse Final’ but Hufton’s 20 clean sheets during the season had brought him to the attention of the England selectors. The 30-year-old Hufton made his England debut in a 2-2 draw with Belgium in Antwerp, alongside West Ham team-mate Bill Brown who was on the scoresheet that day. Ted would have to wait nearly four years for his next cap; he played 15 games to help the Hammers to a 13th-placed finish in their first season in the top flight of English football in 1923/24. Ted and Evelyn had a baby daughter in 1924.
Only eight appearances followed in 1924/25 as the Irons again finished 13th in the First Division. The Hammers finished 18th in 1925/26, with Hufton making 39 appearances; the following campaign would see the club rise to a sixth-placed finish, with Hufton playing 43 matches. 1927/28 saw the Irons drop again, down to 17th, and the club finished in the same position the year after.
It was in the 1927/28 campaign that Hufton won his next two England caps – the first came in a 2-0 defeat to Ireland at Windsor Park on 22nd October 1927, a game which saw Hufton break a bone in his right forearm after 20 minutes. He battled on until half-time when he was replaced by inside-left Jack Ball between the posts. Hufton was also in goal for England’s 5-1 defeat to Scotland at Wembley on 31st March 1928. His final three England caps were all won in May 1929, by which time Hufton was 36 – a 4-1 win over France in Paris on 9th May 1929; a 5-1 win over Belgium in Brussels two days later (details in today’s featured match below); and a 4-3 defeat to Spain in Madrid on 15th May 1929. He had won six England caps, conceding 14 goals.
Hufton made 34 appearances in 1929/30 as West Ham finished seventh but the rise again proved temporary as they fell to 18th the next season. West Ham’s regular flirtations with the lower reaches of the First Division came to a head in 1931/32 when the club were relegated in bottom position, with Hufton making 22 appearances. Hufton’s final league match in a West Ham shirt was as a 39-year-old in a 3-2 defeat at Chelsea on 7th May 1932.
Ted Hufton had made 456 appearances for West Ham United, including wartime matches – he is one of the club’s all-time greatest goalkeepers alongside the likes of Ernie Gregory, Phil Parkes, Ludek Miklosko and Robert Green. The Hammers had to wait until 2001 to have another goalkeeper play for England, that custodian being David James – Green and Joe Hart have since joined Hufton and James as goalkeepers who have represented England whilst at West Ham.
Hufton was granted a free transfer and joined Watford for a brief spell. After retiring from playing, he went into the motor trade as a rep while living in Manor Park. Hufton returned to Upton Park after World War Two to take up the position of press-room steward on matchdays. Ted Fenton said of Hufton, “Ted Hufton, the goalkeeper, was another of my heroes, and he was always in the Press Room after a match at Upton Park, dispensing yarns and memories with the utmost amiability”. Ted’s later life was beset by ill health and he was knocked down by a scooter in 1963, and by a car a few months later. He moved to Swansea and his eyesight began to fail. Ted Hufton passed away in Swansea on 2nd February 1967 at the age of 74.
Belgium v England
England face Belgium this evening in League A Group 2 of the 2020/21 Nations League – it will be the 25th meeting between the two nations. A previous meeting between the pair in Brussels resulted in a 5-1 win for the Three Lions in front of 35,000 at Parc Duden Stadion on 11th May 1929. Audrey Hepburn had been born a week earlier.
West Ham’s Ted Hufton was winning his fifth England cap in this match. England were 3-0 up by half-time courtesy of a hat-trick for Middlesbrough centre-forward George Camsell, the third of which was a penalty. His first came after 32 minutes, the second two minutes later, and the hat-trick was completed eight minutes before the interval. Camsell got his, and England’s, fourth on the hour before he turned creator, setting up West Brom inside-left Joe Carter for a goal in the 64th minute. Belgian inside-left Jacques Moeschal scored a consolation with two minutes remaining following a skilful solo run.
Carter’s goal was England’s 500th in their history. Camsell scored 18 goals in just nine England appearances – the highest goals-to-games ratio for England of anyone who has played more than a single international. He remains Middlesbrough’s all-time leading goalscorer, having scored a club record 325 league goals in 419 games.
Belgium: Jan de Bie (Royal Racing Club Bruxelles), Theodoor Nouwens (KRC Mechelen), Nicolaas Hoydonckx (KSC Hasselt), Henri van Averbeke (Beerschot AC), Florimond Vanhalme (captain, Cercle Brugge KSV), Gustave Boesman (Gent), Pierre Braine (Beerschot AC), Michel Vanderbauwhede (Cercle Brugge KSV), Raymond Braine (Beerschot AC), Jacques Moeschal (Royal Racing Club Bruxelles), Jan Diddens (KRC Mechelen).
England: Ted Hufton (West Ham), Tom Cooper (Derby), Ernie Blenkinsop (Sheffield Wednesday), Len Oliver (Fulham), Jack Hill (captain, Newcastle), John Peacock (Middlesbrough), Hughie Adcock (Leicester), Edgar Kail (Dulwich Hamlet), George Camsell (Middlesbrough), Joe Carter (West Brom), Leonard Barry (Leicester).
The previous articles in the series are:
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Sir Geoff Hurst
Frank Lampard Senior
Sir Trevor Brooking
Frank Lampard Junior