The Giant Killers
All time greatest F A cup giant killings
West Ham United 2 Manchester United 1
Third round: Saturday 25th February 1911
Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, London
Scorers: Danny Shea 17, Sandy Turnbull 22, Tommy Caldwell 88
Canadian actor Wilfred Lucas blacked up to portray the enslaved yet loyal protector of the daughter of his dead mistress, Claire McDowell in D W Griffiths' 'His trust fulfilled', the sequel to 'His Trust'. Billy Murray was enjoying a transatlantic music hit with 'Any little girl, that's a nice little girl, is the right little girl for me.' Herbert Asquith was in his third year as the Liberal Prime Minister, preparations were underway for the coronation of King George V and the final fateful rivets were being fitted to the Titanic before her launch in May.
Thames Ironworks had been a proud shipbuilder for over half a century when it was decided that they would take over the remnants of Old Castle Swifts in 1895 to add to the social side of the company but the old ironworks was already living out its final days by the end of the 19th Century and the club was unsustainable, folding in 1900. Born out of this, a month later, was West Ham United, taking over the Southern League place vacated by their predecessor club and setting out in the 1901 cup competition to achieve what the old Ironworks had failed to do since first trying in 1898, to get through the qualifying rounds.
The Hammers finally achieved that in 1906, holding Woolwich Arsenal to a draw in their first ever cup tie proper but by 1911 their East End fans had never seen their club beat a top flight side.
Then came a sensational cup run in 1911 the like of which the people of East Ham had never seen before.
Nottingham Forest were the first to visit Upton Park, or to give it its proper name The Boleyn Ground, so named as it was located on the site of a former castle, which had been a family residence of the Boleyn family whose daughters had so captivated King Henry VIII. The noise raised by the fans who crammed into the tiny ground would have been enough to rouse poor old Queen Anne's headless ghost, though she would have been none the wiser as to what was happening on the former family estate as thick fog shrouded the ground. The fans could only see the near side of the field at which they were standing and the game descended into a farce which amazingly remained goalless at the interval. The fog lifted slightly after the break but was still dense enough for West Ham's young centre forward, Danny Shea to chance his arm and punch a cross into the Forest net. To his delight and surprise he had been so cunning that neither opponent nor referee saw it as anything other than a legitimate goal. A few minutes later in similar circumstances he did the same again and was equally surprised to find he'd gotten away with it a second time. Naturally it would be many years before an elderly Shea felt safe to admit that poor Forest had been punched out of the cup and that the only legitimate goal scored that day had been Grenville Morris's late consolation.
A smaller crowd came to watch the visit of once mighty Preston in round two due in part to the doubling of admission prices but no fog or deception was needed this time as the elite club were put to the sword by a stunning hat-trick from the England amateur international George Webb, which went without reply but this was nothing to the news that reached the East End the following Tuesday when the papers announced the third round draw and declared that league leaders Manchester United were coming to Green Street.
United arrived at Green Street with a virtually full strength side, with only goalkeeper Harry Moger not in the eleven, replaced by the equally able Hugh Edmonds whose goalkeeping in recent fixtures had seen the reds go on an eight game unbeaten run, which had taken them three points clear of reigning champions, Aston Villa, though the Villains had two games to spare. They were a much more formidable outfit to face than Forest or Preston and few could foresee a way through for West Ham's ungainly Southern League outfit. United however would have to become the first side in ten months to leave Upton Park with a victory as fifteen previous visitors had all left with nothing better to show for it than a draw. Upton Park had become a fortress that 27,000 people crammed into, despite the doubling of admission prices again with many more locked out of a stadium that could barely hold 25,000.
There was a creditable support for the visitors with the hundreds who had traveled from Lancashire being swelled by the many hundreds of local United fans though unlike today's London reds these were expatriot Lancastrians, delighted at a rare chance to see their team in London. The rest were here to see their local idols do battle with the best but for many they never go to see the game as serious crushing saw many fans having to be taken almost unconscious from the stands though thankfully none of these injuries proved more than minor.
In the West Ham dressing room the flamboyant secretary manager was Syd King, a former player and a man who would for the first thirty years of the century be virtually Mr West Ham. Although the club still used selectors it was team that was largely hand picked by King himself which would take the field in an all white kit. In goal was the former professional golfer, George Kitchen. Kitchen was the only member of the side with proven top flight experience having guarded Everton's net off and on for five years, though largely as Irish International Billy Scott's understudy, thus missing the Toffeemen's two cup finals in his time there. Bob Fairman had briefly experienced top flight football in one of Birmingham's many failed bids to stay in the highest division a few years earlier. Club captain Frank Piercy, like Fairman had found his chances at his club, Middlesbrough had been few and far between before moving south while the quartet of top flight experienced players was completed by outside right, Herbert 'Tiddler' Ashton whose tiny frame had proved not strong enough when at Preston, the club he had so enjoyed taking revenge on in the previous round of the cup. At centre half was crowd favourite 'old mother' Tom Randall whose balding head made him look much older than his years. Randall also lacked pace which led to some fans giving him his unflattering nickname but he could pick out a pass on a sixpence. They still were no match for the stars in the next dressing room.
United emerged from the tunnel first in their red and white colours while West Ham followed to huge cheering and an estimated record crowd who strained for a view as United won the toss and played with what wind there was at their backs in the first period. United's greater ability shone through instantly, especially with Welsh wizard Billy Meredith causing mayhem by repeatedly getting the better of Tom Randall, who had started the game at left back with Fairman tasked with trying to stop United's hard man centre forward 'knocker' West from taking advantage. Time and again the pattern of play followed the same path as United got the ball to Meredith who easily bypassed Randall and whipped in a dangerous cross that Whiteman, Piercy and Fairman had to be at their best to keep out the United forward line. It was clear that while Fairman was keeping West in check the big striker was providing space for his strike partners Halse and Turnbull and a goal was surely on the cards when Randall made the call that pace was needed to check Meredith, switching with Fairman. The speedier full back was able to manage the masterful Welshman with much greater affect and the first of United's dangerous avenues had been stemmed. Meanwhile West who loved nothing better than ruffing it with the opposing backs clattered his new marker only to find he himself planted firmly on the deck. The hard man rarely came off second best in such clashes and his game wilted almost instantly.
Up to that point West Ham had relied largely on punted clearances for their pocket sized forward line to chase without much success but after a quarter of an hour in which United had asked the questions without properly testing Kitchen they were caught in the home side's first meaningful attack. George Webb burst through United's half back line and was faced with the giant full backs of Donnelly and Stacey. Webb first fainted left before bursting past the unbalanced Donnelly and slotting the ball past the indecisive Stacey who had left the onrushing Danny Shea unmarked to fire easily past the stranded Edmonds. Upton Park went wild with some of the younger fans, seated on the perimeter wall rushing onto the pitch in their excitement. United now responded as any great team does, by being at their most dangerous when they have just gone behind and West Ham's joy was short lived as a George Wall corner five minutes later was met with a perfectly directed Sandy Turnbull header which Kitchen could only watch fly into his net.
With parity restored the remainder of the first half saw United largely in control without any real end product to their neat short passing game while West Ham relied on quick through balls to Webb who had the United full backs twisting and turning in a real panic every time he came near the penalty area.
By half time there were fans up telegraph poles, on top of the advertising hoardings and even on top of the covered stand itself in situations that today would have given a health and safety officer a heart attack but those expecting the same exciting game that they had seen in the first half were to be disappointed.
United again had more of the ball but frustration was creeping into their game with West by now a virtual spectators and Meredith and Wall not causing the same problems with their crossing as they had in the first half. Worse still for United was a nasty clash of heads between Halse and Roberts when they both went for the same ball, which left both men feeling the after effects for most of the remainder of the game but it was Stacey who stood out most as having a wretched second half in which Webb again tore him inside out every time he got the ball and both United's full back continued to look ragged every time the Hammers forward broke past United's half back line. Time and again the home fans rose in the hope that the panic being caused in the United defence would lead to a winning goal but on every occasion Shea, Webb and Butcher were unable to finish United off and Edmonds was rarely forced into a save despite having to be constantly alert to the crosses of Ashton and Caldwell.
As many had predicted before the kick off West Ham went into the final two minutes on course to maintain their proud unbeaten home record for a sixteenth game while the Mancunians would come away with the draw that perhaps they had quietly hoped for from this tricky tie when the ball went out for a throw in level with the visitor's penalty area. Herbet Ashton raced across and took it quickly to Shea who lashed the ball across the face of goal where Tommy Caldwell had ghosted in past a static Donnelly to fire the ball in from no more than three yards. As the West Ham players raced off to celebrate the inquests started in the United back line as Donnelly and Stacey glared after the celebrating Hammers ignoring Charlie Robert's as he pointed to where the unmarked Shea had stood and inquired we had been allowed the time and space to get the in the flick on in the first place. Not that any of that mattered as West Ham had matched United's undoubted ability with sheer determination and had gradually ground the visitors down player by player before snatching a last gasp victory. The final two minutes were played out in a cauldron of noise in which the United players lashed the ball forward wildly without any remote hope of creating an equalising chance.
Ernest Mangnall's bruised league leaders were almost grateful to get off the field at the final whistle and shortly afterwards their bad day was made worse with the news that Champions Aston Villa had enjoyed a convincing league win to close the gap at the top to a point with a game in hand. United were out of the cup and their title challenge was under serious pressure but they galvanised themselves and lost just two of their remaining eleven games, one at Villa, to clinch the title.
West Ham marched on into the quarter finals where they were again drawn at home to top flight opposition this time against mid table Blackburn Rovers. Even though West Ham ultimately lost this game it was the best of their four ties played against the top flight in the run. Blackburn started well and deservedly took the lead but George Butcher, perhaps the least sung of the forwards during the cup run so far was to have a great day and levelled before the interval. Rovers again started well in the second half and quickly regained the lead but Butcher got his second with twenty minutes left and West Ham now had a real chance of going on and booking a semi final birth. A replay at Ewood Park was becoming increasingly likely when The Hammers were finally broken with just six minutes left and from that point there was no way back as the most famous cup run in the club's history came to an end.
The two men who stood out most from the run were George Webb and Danny Shea, two pocket strikers who had tormented their first division opponents. Shea remained at Upton Park for another year and a half before being signed by League Champions, Blackburn Rovers in January 1913 as the first ever £2,000 footballer. A half season of preparation there served Shea well as he became top scorer when Rovers clinched the title again in 1914. An England cap soon followed but sadly so did the war, which effectively brought Shea's top flight career to a close. He returned to West Ham, via a brief stay in Scotland with Celtic in 1920 but was a shadow of the pre war player, scoring just once in four months with the now Second Division hammers. Spells with other lower division clubs followed over the next six years before setting off to coach in Switzerland. Upon his return Shea did what any self respecting footballer should do and became a publican. A true East end lad he died in Wapping, his birth place on Christmas day 1960.
His strike partner George Webb was less fortunate. Webb was a dedicated amateur who joined Manchester City in the summer of 1912 and impressed in the first two games of the season until Webb discovered that City had paid West Ham a transfer fee. Webb resigned on the spot and retired from football, dying three years later from consumption.
Manager Syd King too had an unhappy end. King remained West Ham's manager for another twenty years after the defeat of United, guiding the club into the league and ultimately into the top flight and to the cup final in the same year of 1923. King though was known for his fondness of a drink and when the club were relegated in 1932 his drunken outburst to the board led to his sacking. King had become a rich man through his management of the Hammers but when banned from his beloved Boleyn Gorund he sank into despair from which he took his own life in 1933.
West Ham United: 1: George Kitchen, 2:James Rothwell, 3:Bob Fairman, 4:Robert Whiteman, 5:Frank Piercy, 6:Tom Randall, 7:Herbert Ashton, 8:Danny Shea, 9:George Webb, 10:George Butcher, 11:Tommy Caldwell
Manchester United: 1:Hugh Edmonds, 2:Tony Donnelly, 3:George Stacey, 4:Dick Duckworth, 5:Charlie Roberts, 6:Alex Bell, 7:Billy Meredith, 8:Harold Halse, 9:Enoch 'Knocker' West, 10:Sandy Turnbull, 11:George Wall