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Banner Hammers Logo theyflysohigh Cafe 2 Cafe recreation Cassetaris Cafe Nov 1971 A final cuppa Cafe

Cassettari's Café ...

by Roger Hillier

Malcolm Musgrove (Manchester United’s assistant manager):

In late 1968, he joined Leicester City as assistant manager under former West Ham team-mate Frank O’Farrell. When O'Farrell moved to Manchester United in June 1971, Musgrove followed, again taking an assistant manager's position. O'Farrell and Musgrove were both sacked by Manchester United in December 1972. In January 1973, Musgrove took the manager's job at Torquay United, a position that O'Farrell had held five years earlier.

An inspired piece of journalism has helped preserve and serve as a reminder of an important part of West Ham United’s indelible folklore.

Cassettaris Tele WH Culture 1971 Broken Hearts Manager Factory

In 1971 BBC Television’s Grandstand programme organised a reunion of former West Ham players who used to meet post-training at Cassettari’s Café to discuss tactics and all things football over tea and snacks. On Wednesday November 10, 1971 seven ex-Hammers from West Ham United’s academy of football coaches met at Cassettari’s.

 

The seven from the high table of English football coaching were Malcolm Allison (Manchester City’s manager), Noel Cantwell (Coventry City’s manager), Frank O’Farrell (Manchester United’s manager), John Bond (Bournemouth’s manager), Dave Sexton (Chelsea’s manager), Jimmy Andrews (Luton Town’s coach) and Malcolm Musgrove (Manchester United’s coach).

Three days later film of the reunion was shown on the BBC Grandstand’s Saturday morning Football Preview. The get-together was also covered in Thursday November 11’s edition of the Daily Mirror. Their feature included the iconic image of the seven ex-Hammers sitting in the Barking Road cafe slurping their tea watched over by Phil Cassettari, the cafe’s owner.

 

The reunion was prompted by the news that Cassettari’s Café was about to be pulled down and replaced by new premises in January. According to Frank O’Farrell’s weekly column in the Daily Mirror, it was his suggestion to hold a reunion. Frank also suggested that the group ate at 1950’s prices to recapture the atmosphere!  

Post-Training Tactical Meetings & Wedding Receptions

Off the football pitch, Cassettari’s Café was an integral part of West Ham United life. It was fifteen years earlier in the early 1950s that the players started to meet post-training in the cafe. These legendary Hammers read like a who’s who of English football managers and coaches from the 1970s and 1980s.  

Members of the group included: Ernie Gregory, Noel Cantwell, John Bond, Ken Brown, Malcolm Allison, Malcolm Musgrove, Frank O’Farrell, Andy Nelson and Jimmy Andrews. For these ex-Hammers the informal team tactic discussions helped develop their passion and interest in the management and coaching side of the game.

 

Cassettari’s Café was more than a post-training venue. The cafe also hosted wedding receptions. Centre forward Tommy Dixon from the early 1950s held his wedding reception in the cafe.

 

Brian Belton’s book Days of Iron (P84) quotes Tommy Dixon

“When I got married we got a clubhouse down Wigstone Road. Sixpence (about 2p today) on the trolley bus and you jumped off at the corner. I had my wedding reception at Cassettari’s, £5 was the bill. They used to make a fuss of me. I used to go in and pay a pound for my food and they’d give me a couple of ten-shilling notes change. They wouldn’t take money for food.  I said to Ted Fenton: “I’m getting married, am I playing?” It was the start of the season.  He says: “Yeah, I think you’re playing.” So I says: “Well, I got a lot of guests. Is there any chance of some tickets?”  He said: “Yeah, I’ll get you some tickets.”  He got me 20 odd, but I didn’t play.  I was sitting up in the stand.  That’s when Roy Stroud was there.

Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer book034 - Just Like My Dreams

Several of the cast referred to the informal discussion over a cuppa in their autobiographies or biographies. The following extracts are a sample from their career reflections.

Malcolm Allison’s “Colours of My Life” (P32):

In a cafe around the corner from Upton Park we used to fill the room with our theories and disputes. But the result was that we were a nicely developing team. We had opened our minds and declared ourselves willing to try new things and be prepared to make some mistakes on the way. In 1956 and ’57 we were emerging as certainties to eventually find our way to the First Division.

John Lyall’s “Just Like My Dreams” (P29): 

A group of us became firm friends – myself, Joe Kirkup, Bobby Moore, Harry Cripps, Andy Smillie, Bobby Ketch, Mike Grice and Tony Scott. Later, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Ronnie Boyce, Joe Kirkup and myself, with wives and girlfriends, used to go out together.  We spent a lot of time together, and frequently ended up after training sharing a pot of tea in an Italian cafe just round the corner from the ground.

Cassettari’s was a favourite haunt for West Ham players at the time. It was a family run cafe, and they used to let the senior and young players sit upstairs and talk about football. None of us knew it at the time, but a high percentage of the lads who sat talking football in that little cafe went on to become coaches and managers.

Charles Korr’s “West Ham United” (P107): 

The classroom for the ‘Academy’ was the Cassettari, a cafe round the corner from the ground where the players went each day. They talked mostly about football. The talks were not a break from the routine of training; they were an intensive football education.  Allison claims, “We were like any revolutionary group. We got excited and built up a good feeling....didn’t think it was anything special, it was just right for us.” The players must have reacted positively because there was no compulsion for anyone to keep coming. O’Farrell marvelled at how unique it was to get a group together that wanted to talk about the game. The sessions had a strong sense of identity among the younger players. They took themselves and their football more seriously. They had different personalities, ranging from ‘Dave Sexton, Jesuit-educated, who used to draw up quizzes for everybody, to John Dick, who would bet on anything.’ What held them together was their interest in football and being part of West Ham United.

book029 - WHU Making of a Football Club

Geoff Hurst’s 1966 And All That (P48) :

Some of us had played in the FA Youth Cup final teams of 1959 and 1963.  Most importantly, we were all pals who spent much of our youth together. John Lyall, Martin Peters, Ronnie Boyce, Jor Kirkup and I often shared a pot of tea after training in Cassettari’s, a family-run Italian cafe round the corner from Upton Park.  We’d spend hours in there, talking about football with the likes of Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Allison and John Bond.

Cassettari’s became the place for any young West Ham player who wanted to learn about the game. They did a delicious egg, bacon, chips and sausage. It would be frowned upon in the modern game but a good fry-up with bread and butter became the number one choice for most of us after a long training session. This was accompanied by pots of tea until, finally, the tables were cleared of everything except the salt and pepper pots and the sauce bottles. These were the essential props in or long discussions on tactics and strategies, usually led by the senior players. We, the pupils, listened and learned and were honoured to be involved.

Frank O’Farrell’s All Change At Old Trafford (P45) :

He (Malcolm Musgrove) was one of a new breed of footballers who would talk about the game. We were always encouraged to talk football, and the likes of Dave Sexton and Malcolm Allison went to a local cafe, Cassettari’s, on the Barking Road, along with the rest of us, after training and we’d be moving the salt cellars, tea cups and spoons around as we talked tactics. Everybody would have their say and we would have some deep discussions, even arguments, on how the game was going.  I had been made captain and I made my views known.

West Ham were one of the first clubs where players got together to talk and discuss the game, and then put some of our ideas into action. Ted Fenton had the same sort of philosophy as us and he took notice of what we were trying to do and encouraged us.

John Moynihan’s The West Ham Story (P68) :

Ernie Gregory remembers Allison and his playing chums, including Noel Cantwell, Dave Sexton, Frank O’Farrell, John Bond, Andy Malcolm and others including himself, discussing tactics endlessly in George’s Kaf in Green Street after training, and later in an Italian joint on the Barking Road.

Matt Dickinson’s Bobby Moore The Man in Full (P15) :

West Ham was not yet known as The Academy but Allison was helping to forge that reputation along with the men he regarded as fellow ‘revolutionaries’ like Noel Cantwell, Frank O’Farrell and john Bond.  Tactics and training methods were discussed, foreign trends analysed in Cassettari’s Cafe across the road from Upton Park, which was an unofficial mess for senior players.

On match day, fans would walk in there a couple of hours before kick-off and find their heroes finishing off a mixed grill. Folklore has it that salt and pepper pots and ketchup sauce would be moved around the table in different formations, highlighting how English teams were stuck like concrete to the outmoded WM system.

Roll of Honour for Hammers in 1971’s Reunion:

Major titles and cups won

left to right:

Jimmy Andrews, Dave Sexton, Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Allison, Phil Cassettari, John Bond, Frank O'Farrell, Malcolm Musgrove

1966 and all that book026 - WHU Story book178 Bobby Moore The Man in Full All change Crossed Hammer

Cassettari’s Café may have run dry and the Hammers have moved from E13 to E20, but the café’s contribution to West Ham's history has a permanent record in the club’s history books. And it is not just the Hammers who benefited from the post-training meetings.  Many English clubs in the 1960s through to the 1990s benefited from the coaching and management skills of ex-Hammers who had started to hone their thinking and passion for the game over a cuppa in the modest Italian café. The achievements and contributions from Allison, Andrews, Bloomfield, Bond, Brown, Cantwell, Gregory, Musgrove, O’Farrell, Sexton, Woosnam and many others will have been celebrated and not forgotten by their respective clubs.

Left to right: John Bond, Mike Grice, John Dick, Ken Brown, Phil Woosnam, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm (back to camera) and Malcolm Musgrove.

 

The players who met at Cassettari’s did not come there by accident. Allison may believe that ‘West Ham was nothing more than our name. The identity was wanting to be a success....There was nothing there for the players....no feeling in the club among the players.  It wasn’t a club.’ But the players were not a random group brought together at some neutral site like the FA coaching clinics at Lilleshall.  They were at an obscure cafe in the East End because they were West Ham players and they were at West Ham because Ted Fenton and his staff had brought them there.  

 

(P156): He (Allison) went to the doctor shortly after the seventh match (1957-58), a 3-2 winner at Swansea. The diagnosis was tuberculosis, and after surgery and a lengthy recovery he returned in March as a spectator to see West Ham score eight goals against Rotherham.  His influence was still felt throughout the season, through the tactics that had evolved at the Cassettari Cafe and the personal impact he had on other players.

ALLISON Malcolm O'FARRELL Frank

Malcolm Allison (Manchester City’s coach):

Football League Champions 1967-68, FA Cup 1969, Football League Cup 1970,European Cup Winners Cup 1970.

Frank O’Farrell (Manchester United’s manager):

In December 1968, he took over at Leicester City and enjoyed mixed fortunes in his first season. The Foxes were relegated from Division One at the end of the season, but Frank led them to the FA Cup final to face Manchester City. Two seasons later he led Leicester City to take the Division Two title and promotion back to the top tier. After his successful spell with Leicester it was no surprise when in June 1971, he took over at Manchester United, but he would only last 18 months in the post.

BOND John SEXTON Dave

John Bond (Bournemouth’s manager):

In May 1970 John was appointed manager of Bournemouth and led the club to promotion as Division Four runners-up at the end of his first season. In the following season, 1971-72, the Cherries finished third in Division Three to narrowly miss a second promotion. Just over a year later in November 1973, he was named as Norwich City’s manager.

Dave Sexton (Chelsea’s manager):

A return to Chelsea in 1967 as their manager led to a successful period in the club’s history. Under Sexton, Chelsea won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. A year later he led them to win the European Cup Winners Cup. In 1972 Chelsea also reached the League Cup final, losing to Stoke City who had previously beaten West Ham in a marathon League Cup semi-final.

Jimmy Andrews (Luton Town’s coach):

At the time of the Cassettari Cafe reunion, Jimmy was a coach with Luton Town. Three years later in 1974 he became manager of Cardiff City after Frank O’Farrell had resigned from the post. He was manger of Cardiff City for four years.

ANDREWS Jimmy MUSGROVE Malcolm Articles Class of '81 Next Article being Prepared

Below: Junior Stanislas, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Carlton Cole and Mark Noble re-create the famous scene from Cassettari's Café from the 1950's for the club's new kit launch in 2010.

Crossed Hammer

Last Cuppa Finished But Not Forgotten

Noel Cantwell (Coventry City’s manager):

Noel kept the Sky Blues in Division One in his first two seasons before taking them to sixth-place in 1969-70, earning them qualification for European competition in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (a year before it was replaced by the UEFA Cup).

CANTWELL Noel

Daily Telegraph 1972

Goal Magazine 1973

Allison Book Cover