The History of West Ham United


West Ham lost their prolific scorer, Billy Grassam, to Manchester United before the start of the season. Dick Pudan, a local lad from Canning Town, who had played well at full-back the previous season, left for Bristol Rovers. He later went on to play for Newcastle United in the 1908 FA Cup Final.

Syd King, the new manager, brought in Charles Satterthwaite from New Brompton (Gillingham) to replace Grassam. William Kirby, a right-winger who had a good scoring record, was signed from Swindon Town. Tommy Allison was brought in from Reading to bolster the defence. Herbert Lyon, a forward, also joined from Reading. Len Jarvis, a talented local boy, was also brought into the team.

The first game of the season was away to Millwall. Both the new forwards, Charles Satterthwaite and William Kirby scored but West Ham still lost 4-2. This was the story of the season, Satterthwaite and Kirby scored 29 goals between them but they could not stop West Ham from losing 17 of their 34 games.

The Hammers did better in the FA Cup, beating Brighton & Hove Albion, Clapton Orient and Chatham in the first three rounds. However, they lost 1-0 to Fulham in the 4th round in front of 12,000 people. This was West Ham's largest crowds of the season.

Attendances at games, compared to their close rivals, remained disappointing. West Ham began to verge on the edge of bankruptcy and by the end of the season the club only had had the money to pay the wages of one professional player, Tommy Allison, during the summer.

Arnold Hills was also having financial problems and was unwilling to re-negotiate a rental agreement to use the Memorial Grounds that was acceptable to West Ham United. The club was forced to find another sponsor. A local brewery agreed to advance them a loan to help them purchase a new ground.

Syd King was given the task to find West Ham a new home. It was suggested that he should take a look at Boleyn Castle field, just off Green Street, East Ham. The land was owned by the Catholic Ecclesiastical Authorities and used by the Boleyn Castle Roman Catholic Reformatory School.

A deal was arranged with the Catholic Ecclesiastical Authorities but the Home Office made it clear that they did not approve of the land being used by West Ham United. Syd King went to see Sir Ernest Gray, an influential Member of Parliament. As King later explained, "through his good offices, subject to certain conditions, we were finally allowed to take possession of Boleyn Castle".

West Ham forwards attack the Plymouth Argyle goal in January, 1904.
West Ham forwards attack the Plymouth Argyle goal in January, 1904.