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The victory was part of a fantastic start to the 1968-69 season which took West Ham to the unfamiliar and dizzy height of topping the Division One league table. For 24 hours the Hammers led Division One with 9 points from the first six games. (This was in the days when 2 points were awarded for a win.) The following evening Arsenal won to leap frog the Hammers by a single point. In the Hammers’ first 12 league games they only suffered a single defeat.
The second intriguing part of the evening was the controversy shrouding West Ham’s fourth goal. The Stratford Express report headlined the incident with “Linesman’s good deed ends in row”. In short, West Ham’s fourth goal was scored by Trevor Brooking when he looked yards offside, and the linesman, a deputy, did not raise his flag. The deputy linesman subsequently received bad press in several of the national papers for not flagging Trevor as offside. However, his view was that the ball took a deflection off a Burnley player to play Trevor onside. Reports suggested Trevor was five yards offside but that cannot be true! Trevor was never the fastest of players but not even he would have been caught five yards offside!
Same opposition, same place, similar league position but 43 years later.
West Ham United v. Burnley 3rd December 2011
Challenging for top place in the division and playing their home Championship game against Burnley in the first week of December it is a reminder of a league match played in the late 1960s. On Monday August 26, 1968 West Ham United met Burnley in Division One and achieved a memorable 5-0 win. It was memorable for a couple of reasons.
Back in 1968 match arrangements did not accommodate reserve officials or spare officials kit. Which is why Kieran McClean was pictured in the Stratford Express running the line wearing what looks like his work attire – suit trousers, black leather shoes, and a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up! I notice he dispensed with his jacket and I assume his tie is neatly tucked into his trousers! He looked like any dad running the line at a under 10s football match in the local park. Refer to Stratford Express press article / picture “Linesman’s good deed ends in row”
To put the match result beyond any doubt, Brooking scored his second and West Ham’s fifth goal in the second half.
For the record the scorers in the magnificent 5-0 win were Peters (17 mins), Hurst 2 (21 & 31mins), and Brooking 2 (42 & 60 mins).
West Ham: Bobby Ferguson, Billy Bonds, John Charles, Martin Peters, Alan Stephenson, Bobby Moore, Harry Redknapp, Ron Boyce, Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking. John Sissons (Roger Cross).
Burnley: Thompson, Smith, Latcham, O’Neil, Waldron, Bellamy, Coates, Lochead, Casper, Kindon, Thomas.
As an aside it was also an important evening for Roger Cross. Roger came on as a second half substitute for John Sissons to make his league debut and his only league appearance that season.
A 5-0 win to maintain momentum at the top of the Championship would be most acceptable. Preferably without the assistance of a controversial goal.
The deputy linesman story is worth recalling as it would not be repeated in today’s game. In the 1968 Burnley match the referee was hurt such that in the 36th minute he was forced to retire from the game. In those days the officials’ team did not include a reserve fourth official, so the club had to appeal to the crowd for a deputy official. Out from the crowd stepped Kieran McClean to take over as deputy linesman. The original linesman took over as referee. This was not a new experience for Keiran McClean as he was a qualified referee and had performed a similar deputy role in the West Ham v Nottingham Forest a couple of weeks earlier.
The controversial fourth goal came seconds before the interval when “Redknapp floated the ball through the middle to Brooking, who looked yards offside, and as the whistle never came, Brooking fired his shot past Thompson (Burnley’s goalkeeper). A goal was signalled despite Burnley’s protests”.
After the half time break, the referee had sufficiently recovered to resume refereeing duties. Kieran McClean with his nine minute linesman stint over, returned to the comparative safety of the stand.
My Granddad was a keen sportsman and even played Fred Perry at tennis during the 30s - he would have been professional but put family first. He was a lifelong Hammers fan and a true gentleman and sportsman. Anyone who knew him would testify that he would have never made an incorrect decision to favour his team. I remember clearly him lecturing me on the misbehaviour of footballers as soon as I was old enough to understand!
The reason I came across your article today was a google search following a chance conversation last night. I was chatting to my friend's dad - also an Irons fan, and started to tell him the story about the game, as soon as I said the word "linesman" he remembered the game, could tell me the year, who they played, and said he could clearly picture my Grandad running the line! It's amazing that this is remembered so clearly by people outside the family.
My brother also called Kieran after my Grandad, recalls on his Facebook page:
"My Granddad was pulled from the crowd to be the linesman at a West Ham game. He also played against Fred Perry at tennis in the 1930's, took 9 wickets in an innings of a cricket game, made army uniforms during the second World War, and most importantly along with my Grandma helped my mum raise me and my sister until the age of 6 and continued to be a massive influence on my life until he passed away in 1997."
Miss you Granddad x
Me and Granddad in the early 90s - you can see how he influenced my fashion sense!
Siobhan Schofield and Grandad Kieran McClean
Footnote to Article:
I just wanted to say thank you so much for the article by Roger Hillier - the linesman who volunteered from the crowd was my Granddad Kieran McClean who died in 1997 - he was a great great man and we often talk about this story and I tell it proudly to anyone I meet who even has a vague interest in football!
Thanks again for the article, it's lovely to think that a whole new generation of West Ham fans may be reading about my amazing Grandad!