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Dave Sexton was arguably the best coach to have graduated from the 1950s West Ham academy. His coaching and managerial career had many highs and his achievements were comparable with those of the best coaches of his generation. Many West Ham supporters would have wished he had had the opportunity to manage the Hammers. While he is well known for his illustrious coaching and management skills, he also enjoyed a long playing career as an inside forward with several southern league clubs. His longest single spell with a club was at Upton Park (1953-56) where he clocked his highest number of league appearances for a single club.
Back row: Dave Sexton, John Bond, Ernie Gregory, Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Frank O'Farrell
Front row: Malcolm Musgrove, Harry Hooper, Billy Dare, John Dick, Ken Tucker
WEST HAM UNITED 1955-56
Born on April 6, 1930 in Islington, he died on Sunday November 25, 2012 aged 82.
Sexton joined the Hammers in March 1953 from Luton Town and stayed for over three years before transferring to neighbours Leyton Orient in the summer of 1956. His West Ham tenure took in 79 competitive first team games and a contribution of 29 goals. These games included 74 (27 goals) in Division II, three (2 goals) in the FA Cup and a couple of appearances in the Essex Professional Cup.
Despite the early to mid 1950s Division II seasons not being the most illustrious in West Ham’s history, Dave managed a few personal highs. This included a couple of hat tricks. The first was on August 31, 1953 in a 3-0 home win over Rotherham. A couple of right foot shots provided the first two, and the hat trick was completed with a penalty. As an aside Dave was one of four forwards to grab trebles in 1953-54. The following season on February 5, he repeated the feat against Plymouth Argyle in front of the Upton Park faithful in a 6-1 win. This was probably Dave’s best season in claret and blue as the Hammers finished 8th in the league and his strike rate was very close to a goal every two games with an impressive 12 in 25 games. Dave’s longest run of Division II games was 24 at the beginning of 1953-54 season.
FA XI Honour
In October 1953 Dave gained a representative
honour when selected to play for an FA XI against
the RAF at White Hart Lane. Around this time the
Stratford Express reported that England’s manager, Walter Winterbottom, watched Dave play a couple of times for consideration for further representative honours.
Floodlit Friendlies versus International Club Sides
Another highlight of his time at Upton Park would have been goal scoring appearances against first division and attractive international opposition. In 1953-54 season Dave was a member of the teams which beat Sunderland (October 5) 2-0, and Hearts (October 12) 7-0. His contributions were a single goal against the Black Cats and a brace against the Scots. He also played in the goalless draw against the Brazilians, Olaria (April 27).
Three weeks after the Hearts game Dave was in the first West Ham XI to play an away floodlit game. This was a memorable evening for Dave as he scored a double in the 4-2 friendly win over the Division III South club Queens Park Rangers. The Stratford Express reported his second goal as the “best I have ever scored”. It was created by “Jimmy Andrews when he swung a cross over and Dave Sexton hit a dropping shot on the half volley with terrific force into the rigging”.
In the following season Dave’s flow of friendly goals continued. October 1954 proved to be a busy month with goals in the 4-0 and 3-1 triumphs over VFB Stuttgart (October 5) and SC Wacker of Austria (October 19) with a double and single nets respectively. Dave had perhaps the good fortune to miss December’s 6-0 thrashing by AC Milan. Though he bounced back with a goal in the following January’s 4-1 win over first division Portsmouth. Later that season on March 22 1955 he had the distinction of playing in the first game to be televised live from Upton Park. This was the 0-0 draw with Holland Sports. In April was in the team visiting Belfast for the friendly against Distillery, and contributed another goal in the 2-2 draw. In the final game of the season on May 14, the Hammers fielded a very strong side against a local Area XI to mark the opening of the Briggs Sports Ground. A crowd of 4,000 witnessed Dave’s hat trick in the 3-2 win.
Essex Professional Cup Final
Dave’s cup appearances were limited to three in the FA Cup in 1954, and a couple in the Essex Professional Cup (EPC). The first of the EPC games was the 1954-55 final away to Southend. The game was actually played in August of the following season and a 3-3 draw meant the trophy was shared. The team that day was: Gregory, Bond, Hallas, Sexton, Nelson, Johnstone, Stroud, Moore (B), Blackburn, Foan, Tucker.
The following season Dave made another appearance this time in the semi-final at home. Again the opposition was the Shrimpers who clinched a final place in a 3-2 win.
The “Os”, the Seagulls and the Glaziers
In June 1956 Dave Sexton and Jimmy Andrews left West Ham to join Leyton Orient. After a season at Brisbane Road (24 league games & 4 goals) he moved to Brighton & Hove Albion. In two seasons on the south coast he enjoyed a prolific goal scoring spell with 24 league goals in his 47 games and helped the club win the Division III championship. His final move was to Crystal Palace in 1959 where he finished his playing career with a further 27 league games and four more goals. His collective number of league appearances was 181 with 67 goals.
Illustrious Coaching &
In January 1962 his playing career was ended by injury. Any disappointment at having to hang up his boots would have been quickly overshadowed by his managerial achievements. As manager / coach he served Chelsea (twice), Orient, Fulham, Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United and Coventry City. Plus he was appointed as England manager Bobby Robson’s assistant in July 1983. His managerial achievements were many and should be recountered in a book. The highs of his accomplishments included steering Chelsea to FA Cup (1970) and European Cup Winners Cup (1971) triumphs. With three different clubs he managed the teams to the runners-up spot in Division I. First with Chelsea (1970-71), then Queens Park Rangers (1975-76) and finally with Manchester United (1979-80).
Dave Sexton will be remembered by many Hammers fans as not only an inside forward who contributed goals at a strike rate of close to a goal every three games, but as a manager, if appointed, who could have bought so much more success to east London.
Leyton Orient manager Alec Stock (far right) and captain Stan Aldous (2nd from right) welcome four new signings to the club. (left to right) Alex forbes from Arsenal, Dave Sexton and Jimmy andrews both from West Ham United and Stan Willemse from Chelsea
1956 - Dave Sexton front row 2nd left
Front row: 2nd left Dave Sexton, 5th left Johnny Byrne
Back Row: 3rd left Malcolm Pyke, 6th left Dave Sexton
Front row: 1st left Johnny Byrne
Back row: 2nd right - John Cartwright
Front row: 2nd and 3rd - left Andy Smillie, Johnny Byrne
His West Ham league debut was an inauspicious start on April 3, 1953 in the 2-1 defeat at home to Fulham. Two games later fortunes were reversed in the return fixture at Craven Cottage as the Hammers recorded a 3-2 victory with Dave notching his first two West Ham goals. For the next two seasons Dave was a regular choice at inside right. In each of the following two seasons, 1953-54 and 1954-55, he scored a dozen league goals. Plus in the former season he added two more in his three FA Cup appearances. In his four seasons in the first XI this was the only time he played in the FA Cup.
Facing stiff competition for an inside forward position restricted Dave’s league appearances to just 15 in 1955-56. His last league game in claret and blue was in the season’s last. Dave was recalled for the home game against Bristol City and narrowly missed a hat trick with a 2nd half brace in the 3-0 victory. A couple of his team mates on that April afternoon, Billy Dare and Derek Parker, would also later score in their final West Ham appearance.
Friendly games against Sunderland and Hearts
FULHAM 3rd April 1953
West Ham United team:
Ernie Gregory, George Wright, Harry Kinsell, Derek Parker, Malcolm Allison, Frank O'Farrell, Tommy Southren, Jim Barrett, Tommy Moroney, Dave Sexton, Harry Hooper
Dave Sexton follows Harry Hooper out onto the Upton Park pitch
ROTHERHAM UNITED 3-0 (Sexton 3)
31st August 1953
West Ham United team:
Ernie Gregory, George Wright, Noel Cantwell, Derek Parker, Malcolm Allison, Frank O'Farrell, Tommy Southren, Dave Sexton, Tommy Dixon, John Dick, Jimmy Andrews
West Ham United v. Holland Sports first game to be televised live from Upton Park Sexton wearing number 9
His tenure at Selhurst Park coincided with that of fellow ex-Hammers Alf Noakes, George Petchey, Malcolm Pyke, John Cartwright and Andy Smillie, plus future Hammer, Johnny Byrne.
Sexton meets the Chelsea players
Chelsea’s FA Cup Win in 1970 - Dave Sexton standing precariously with the mayor on a ledge drinking from the FA Cup. No health & safety in 1970.
Where it all began; Dave Sexton centre picture
Date of Birth:
April 6, 1930
3 FA Cup
2 Essex Professional Cup
2 FA Cup