Dan Coker's Match Preview

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Sheffield United on Sunday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 12 noon on Sunday.

Blast from the past

7th March 1931: Oswald Mosley had set up his New Party (later to become the British Union of Fascists) six days previously, and Mikhail Gorbachev, Rupert Murdoch, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Norman Tebbit were all born during the course of the month. Meanwhile, West Ham United took on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in front of 13,315.

Syd King’s Hammers went into the game on the back of five successive defeats, conceding 15 goals in those reverses. Third in the top flight shortly before Christmas 1930, West Ham had dropped to mid-table by the time of this game in early March 1931, a similar position to that occupied by their Yorkshire hosts. The Irons came away with maximum points though, claiming a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from their two wingers, outside-right Tommy Yews (pictured below) and outside-left Jimmy Ruffell.

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The Hammers would slump to an eventual 18th-place finish in 1930/31, only five points clear of relegation. Sheffield United ended up in 15th place – Manchester United were relegated in bottom position. Arsenal won the league title and West Brom won the FA Cup. Viv Gibbins was the Irons’ top goalscorer, notching 19 goals in 22 appearances.

West Ham United: Bob Dixon, Alfred Earl, Reg Wade, Jimmy Collins, Jim Barrett, Joe Musgrave, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, Wilf James, Jimmy Ruffell.

Club Connections

West Ham United and Sheffield United have shared a number of personnel over the years. A run-through of those who have represented both clubs includes:

Goalkeepers: Ted Hufton, Tom McAlister, Bill Biggar, Richard Wright and Mervyn Day.

Defenders: Jon Harley, Matthew Kilgallon, David Unsworth, Jimmy Holmes, Wayne Quinn, Simon Webster and Fred Milnes.

Midfielders: Don Hutchison, Kyel Reid, George Ratcliffe, Joe Cockroft, Franz Carr, Herbert Winterhalder, Ravel Morrison, Lou Raisbeck, and Jim Simmons.

Strikers: Billy Barnes, Henri Camara, David Kelly, Brian Deane, Peter Kyle and Dick Leafe.

Martin Peters played for West Ham and Sheffield United; he also managed the Blades.

This week’s focus though is on a player who represented Sheffield United and later played for Thames Ironworks. Kenny McKay was born in Wishaw, Lanarkshire in 1876 – he started his footballing career with Hamilton Academical before moving south of the border to sign for Sheffield United. McKay was a member of the Blades side which won the 1897/98 First Division title; this was to be his one and only season at the club. McKay moved to Tottenham in a surprise transfer and scored on his debut against Thames Ironworks on 3rd September 1898.

McKay (pictured) signed for Thames Ironworks in their final season before reforming as West Ham United. Francis Payne, the club secretary, had been given the task of finding players for the club’s first season in the top division of the Southern League; according to one report Arnold Hills gave Payne £1,000 to find the best players available. With this money he brought McKay, Tom Bradshaw and Bill Joyce from Tottenham. McKay made his Irons debut in a 1-0 Southern League defeat at Reading on 16th September 1899 and scored his first goals for the club two days later, bagging a brace on his home debut in a 4-0 win over Chatham at the Memorial Grounds. An inside-right, McKay enjoyed a particularly impressive run of five goals in seven FA Cup games – one in a 6-0 thrashing of Royal Engineers, another in a 4-0 win at Grays, two in a 7-0 win at Dartford on 28th October and another in a 2-0 home win over New Brompton as the Irons won through to the competition’s fifth qualifying round. McKay also scored in a 3-1 Southern League defeat at Southampton on 16th December 1899 before tragedy struck the club – the aforementioned Bradshaw, McKay’s Irons team-mate and former Tottenham colleague, died of consumption on Christmas Day 1899.

McKay scored in a 2-1 home defeat to QPR five days after Christmas and was also on the scoresheet twice in successive games in mid-January as the Irons ushered in the 20th century, in a 1-1 draw at Bristol Rovers and 3-0 win at Sheppey United. McKay scored his last goal at the Memorial Grounds in a 4-2 home win over Sheppey, with his final goal for the club coming in his next match away at Millwall, the winning goal in a 1-0 triumph. Thames Ironworks finished in 14th place and would be required to play a Test Match against Fulham to maintain their senior divisional standing; ironically, the game would be played at White Hart Lane, McKay’s former stomping ground, and it would be his last appearance for the Hammers. The Irons recorded a 5-1 victory on 30th April 1900 to preserve the club’s Southern League First Division status. Just over a month later, the club was reformed as West Ham United.

After scoring 13 goals in 36 appearances, McKay returned to Scotland, playing a single season with Wishaw United. He moved to Fulham in 1901, helping the Cottagers to win the Second Division of the Southern League in 1902 and 1903. His date of death is unknown.


The referee on Sunday will be Martin Atkinson. 2020/21 is Atkinson’s 16th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed 28 of our league matches, officiating in 14 wins for the Hammers, three draws and 11 defeats.

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Atkinson’s Hammers appointments last season were our 1-0 win at Southampton in December, our 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in March, our 3-2 home win over Chelsea in July and our 3-1 win over Watford later that month. His most recent match in charge of the Hammers was our 4-0 home win over Wolves in September.

Possible line-ups

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has doubts over John Egan, Enda Stevens, Sander Berge, Lys Mousset and Rhian Brewster but Ethan Ampadu and John Fleck are available. Jack O’Connell is a long-term absentee. Right wing-back George Baldock is the younger brother of former Hammers striker Sam Baldock. Sheffield United have been victorious in all of their previous Premier League home games against West Ham – 3-2 in March 1994, 3-0 in April 2007 and 1-0 in January 2020. The Blades have gone 11 league matches without a clean sheet though, conceding 20 goals.

For West Ham United, Angelo Ogbonna is expected to be fit but Michail Antonio remains a doubt. Antonio has scored eight goals in his past six Premier League away appearances. Mark Noble is available but Andriy Yarmolenko is out. Noble is just one Premier League goal away from equalling Paolo Di Canio’s record of 47 for the club. West Ham haven’t won a top-flight match at Bramall Lane since April 1968.

Possible Sheffield United XI: Ramsdale; Basham, Ampadu, Stevens; Baldock, Norwood, Berge, Lundstram, Lowe; McGoldrick, McBurnie.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Bowen, Soucek, Rice, Fornals; Haller.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!