Farewell Boleyn: Tribute to a Hammers pioneer

john charles & Pop robsonJohn Charles pioneered the road which many have trodden as the e first black player to pull on the Hammers shirt.
 A local boy, Johnny was brought up in Ordinance Road, Canning Town living  not far from the Rathbone Market and just a stone’s throw from the building situated at 55 Barking Road where West Ham was formed in 1900.
He was the eighth of nine children born to his seaman father from Grenada and his mother who was from Silvertown. He attended what was Pretoria School now called Eastlea,the same place of learning  where Frank Lampard senior was attending and Alan Sealey.
John was spotted by chief scout Wally St Pier and joined the Hammers ground staff captaining the youth team to triumph in the Youth Cup with a team that also included Harry Redknapp and John Sissons.
They defeated Liverpool, led by Tommy Smith, 6-5 on aggregate, losing 3-1 away in the first leg before triumphing 5-2 at home in the second leg at the Boleyn, thus winning the trophy for the first time in the club’s history. John thus became  the first black player to lead any first class team to any trophy.
Just after the Youth Cup final he was given his debut by Ron Greenwood against Blackburn Rovers wearing Bobby Moore’s No 6 jersey while Moore was given the No 5 for that game.
Injury blighted his career and he retired aged only 26 in 1971 after 118 games for the Hammers. John then went into the fruit and veg business running stalls and even wholesaling but he suffered ill health and died aged 57 in 2002. His  place in Hammers history is assured.
The picture comes from West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle played on the August 9, 1969. The Geordie in the foreground is none other than Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, soon to become a Hammers star and goal scoring legend.
Behind them is the packed North Bank with the distinctive letters located on the wall which were also also to be found on the South Bank.
The  letters were matched to a top flight game in the programme and just after half time a member of the ground staff would put up the half-time score in the corresponding game to the letters in the programme.
Words and pictures from Nigel Kahn, lifelong fan and ClaretandHugh historian
Follow Nige on twitter @mywhufc

About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

3 comments on “Farewell Boleyn: Tribute to a Hammers pioneer

  1. You done it again Nigel !!!!
    I had totally forgotten the score board !!! But remember john Charles very well !!!
    Took me right back again !! Great memories !!!!

    Hope the secret footballer is reading this !!!!!!!

  2. I remember John from going to my very first games at Upton Park. Did he have a brother Clive who also played in the first team a few times? Or have I made that up?

  3. No you are not making it up !!!
    He was johns younger brother who played in the 70’s .
    If memory serves me right Clive , Ade cooker and Clyde best were the first trio of black players ever to play in the same side in div 1 . Clive didn’t have a long career,
    I think he may have made his debut with Ade cooker at palace , ???? I might be wrong on that one but definatly remember cooker playing , long time ago now , memories crap on most things now !

Comments are closed.