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A report from the Stratford Express (October 29, 1954) gives a possible insight to the reason why Albert fluctuated between the first XI and the reserves. The report quotes Ted Fenton’s advice to Albert: “Look Albert, you can make the first team, but you must cut down the frills.” The report explains how Albert would hold on to the ball and take on too many players before passing. Ted’s advice to basically release the ball earlier seems to have had a positive effect as Albert was given a fresh opportunity in the first team at the start of season 1954-55. The club’s disastrous start to the season had Ted seeking a new centre forward and a new inside right to partner Harry Hooper. Fenton thought Foan would be an ideal choice to work on the right with Hooper. The move was a temporary success as Albert “cut out a lot of his fancy play” and became an effective combination on the right side. With this new emergence in form Albert was off the transfer list and in the first team. In 1954-55 he made 19 Division Two appearances. All but two were in the season’s first 20 matches.
In the early part of this season he also made a couple of scoring appearances in friendly matches. On September 20, 1954 he scored in the first team’s 2-1 away win over Penzance and two weeks later he scored in the 4-0 home win over Stuggart in one of the club’s early floodlit games against foreign opposition. But it was the following season he will be most remembered for.
HAT-TRICK FOR ALBERT
Albert receives the match ball from Ted Fenton after scoring a second-half hat-trick against Preston North End in the F.A. Cup
As each season’s FA Cup quarter finals comes around we are reminded of one of West Ham’s better cup runs. This was in 1956 when the Hammers narrowly lost a quarter final replay to Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately a member of that successful team, Albert Foan, passed away August 14, 2009 aged 85.
Born at Rotherhithe on October 30, 1923 Albert enjoyed a long football career, playing competitive football well into his 40s. He started out with Norwich City where he made 18 league appearances (3 goals) before his transfer to West Ham United in June 1950. He was one of Ted Fenton’s first signings for the club. In his seventh year with the Hammers he left the club to commence a long stint in non-league football.
Albert was something of an enigma. During his seven seasons with the Hammers he flitted between the first team and the reserves. He spent more time in the reserves than on first team duty. As a winger or inside forward he accumulated 64 competitive first team appearances and contributed 9 goals. This included 53 in the league, 7 FA Cup, 3 Essex Professional Cup and a solitary game in the Southern Floodlight Cup. He made his league debut on the opening day of the 1950-51 season at home to Hull City in a 3-3 draw.
West Ham United team:
Ernie Gregory, Ernie Devlin, Jack Yeomanson, Derek Parker, Dick Walker, Derek Jackman, Terry Woodgate, Gerry Gazzard, Bill Robinson, Albert Foan, Eric Betts
For Hammers’ fans Albert will be remembered for two significant contributions to the club’s success on the pitch. The first was his part in the run to the 1956 FA Cup quarter finals, and the second was as a member of the reserve team which achieved the Combination league and cup double in 1953-54.
But in his first four seasons Albert was very much on the fringe of the first team. In those four seasons he played just 25 league games plus a solitary appearance in the FA Cup. At Albert’s request the club even placed him on the transfer list.
Season 1953-54 was an important one for the club and Albert. This was the season that the reserve team won the Combination league and cup double. Albert played a significant part in that success. To put it in perspective this was the first time West Ham’s reserves won their league and it would not be repeated for 24 years (1977-78). Perhaps this success gave Albert more confidence as in the following season he played his highest number of league games.
Transfers to Margate and Lowestoft Town
Soon after his last league game he transferred to Margate in the Southern League. By now Albert was 33 years old though his footballing career was far from over. He spent close to five years with Margate and recorded 178 league games and scored 29 goals. His next move was to Lowestoft for another fairy tale chapter in his playing career. In November 1966 Albert played on the wing for Lowestoft in the 1st round of the FA Cup against Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road. Lowestoft may have lost 2-1 but it was a notable achievement for someone in his 43rd year to be playing in the 1st round of the FA Cup against league opposition. On the opposite wing for Lowestoft that day was his former Hammer team mate, Mike Grice. Mike was no spring chicken as he had just turned 35.
After five years at Lowestoft Albert moved on to his last club, Great Yarmouth, where he continued to play to 1968. So he was still playing competitive football at the age of 45. After hanging up his boots he coached for Norwich City and worked for the local council.
Albert had been recalled to the team for the previous match, a league game v Notts County as a replacement for the injured Brian Moore. He played well and retained his place for the following weekend’s PNE cup tie. The Stratford Express’ report on the PNE tie was lavish in its praise for Albert. To quote from the report “Albert gave the most dazzling performance from an inside forward that I have seen in years. He gave a demonstration of slide rule passing, quick fire shooting and easy to watch positioning that had Preston’s defence running around in circles”.
At half time West Ham trailed PNE 2-1. The players received a motivating talk from Ted Fenton which transformed the team. Probably comparable with one of Scott Parker’s talks in 2010-11 season. Anyway, Fenton’s talk had the desired effect and West Ham went on to give PNE a “lesson in the finer arts of football”.
Albert was judged man of the match as he bought Harry Hooper into the game as no inside forward had that season. He created havoc in Preston’s defences as he weaved, tricked, and sped his way like a hot knife through butter. There was nothing fancy about Foan. Nothing like the Foan that had been called into manager Ted Fenton’s office some time ago to be told about his over elaboration. This was a new Albert Foan’.
FA Cup Hat Trick
Looking at the statistics 1955-56 would probably not stand out as Albert’s most notable season in claret and blue. The statistics show in played in only five Division Two games scoring a solitary goal. But in the club’s FA Cup run to the quarter finals he played in all six of the cup games and by his standards scored an amazing three goals! And what a three goals these were! That season he played in more FA Cup games than league games. Without a shadow of doubt, Albert’s crowning moment of glory was his second half hat-trick in West Ham’s 3rd round FA Cup victory over Preston North End (PNE) on January 7, 1956. On this January afternoon Albert rose to the occasion. Against the Division One team which included Tom Finney, Albert’s contribution was a 2nd half hat trick which helped the Hammers win 5-2.
Albert’s 32 minute second half hat trick was described as follows: First goal: “Dick sent Foan right through and the inside forward coolly beat Thompson (Preston’s goalkeeper) with a drive into the corner of the net.”
Second goal: The goal “followed a corner by Hooper. Again it was Foan who was on hand. He attempted to let the ball go past him but suddenly pushed out his foot and with as neat a flick as one could wish to see, the ball rolled into the corner of the net.”
Third goal: “Ten minutes from time, Allison ran up into the penalty area. Preston’s defenders ran to cover him as the ball bobbed about in their area. They forgot for a moment about Foan, who nipped in smartly to push the ball home for West Ham’s fourth.” The hat trick was completed.
Despite retaining his first team place for the historic cup run, Albert’s West Ham career was soon to close. After the cup run finished with defeat at home to Tottenham he was destined to only play another five Division Two games and to never score again in a competitive first team match. In the following season, 1956-57, he played another four league games before leaving the club in late 1956. His last Hammers’ game was on October 27, 1956 in the 1-0 home defeat to Grimsby Town.
Norwich City 1948-49
Albert Foan : front row second left
Lowestoft Town 1962-63
Back row: John Wilson, Dave Etheridge, Charlie Peck, Dave Mutton, Mick Cole, Robin Mills.
Front row: John Butcher, Albert Foan, Noel Kinsey (player coach), Derek Turner, Rex Butcher.
GRANGE FARM TRAINING SESSION
Albert Foan – training under Harry Hooper Snr.
Left to right: Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Allison, Albert Foan, Harry Hooper, Mike Grice, Jimmy Andrews
Albert Foan scoring in the 2-1 victory over
Leeds at Upton Park in March 1955
Albert Foan’s Testimonial
Lowestoft Town v. A Select XI
12th January 1966
West Ham's Mike Grice
played for the Select XI
Date of Birth:
October 30, 1923
7 FA Cup
1 Southern Floodlit Cup
3 Essex Professional Cup
3 FA Cup