Welcome to the West Ham United Memorabilia Collection featuring everything Claret and Blue
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The Hammers fielded their strongest possible XI which meant just two changes from the side which two days earlier had beaten the Division Two leaders, Charlton Athletic, 3-0 at The Valley.
George Wright stepped in for a flu-ridden John Bond at right back, and Mike Grice dropped out of the forward line to make way for centre forward Vic Keeble.
To avoid clashing with Sparta Rotterdam’s red and white striped shirts, the Hammers wore their new second colours, the white shirt with a claret and a blue hoop.
The five goals flowed as follows:
1st goal 4 mins:
Within four minutes West Ham’s new centre forward had taken a shrewd pass from Dick to score from a difficult angle.
2nd goal 22 mins:
Described as an incredible effort as Ernie Gregory’s clearance bounced in the midfield circle and before the Sparta defenders realised the danger, George Wright fed the ball to Dick who made rapid ground, and fired in a brilliant shot from a seemingly impossible angle.
3rd goal 30 mins:
A mild-looking foul on Musgrove, who had plenty of room for his speedy thrusts in the first half resulted in a penalty. John Smith shot straight at the goalkeeper Hofstee but high into the roof of the net.
4th goal 47 mins:
John Dick scores with a low drive.
5th goal 57 mins:
Described as the best goal of the evening. Smith lofted a high pass to Keeble who headed a fine pass through the middle for Dick to race on to and smash home a great drive. Goalkeeper Hofstee got his hands to the shot but only succeeded in hurting himself.
Andy Carroll is not the first distinguished ex-Newcastle United striker to be wearing claret and blue. Two earlier acquisitions from the Magpies who became fans’ favourites were Bryan 'Pop' Robson in the 1970s and twenty years earlier, Vic Keeble.
The last surviving member of Newcastle’s 1955 FA Cup winning side, Keeble was an inspired purchase by manager Ted Fenton. Signed early in West Ham’s promotion winning season 1957-58 for a transfer fee of £8,000, he quickly found his scoring touch to help the Hammers win the Division Two championship.
Vic wasted no time in scoring his first goal albeit in a friendly. This was delivered on the same day as he signed for the Hammers when he made his claret and blue debut in a testimonial game.
On Monday October 14, 1957 Vic Keeble was drafted in to the first XI to face Sparta Rotterdam in a friendly fixture doubling as a testimonial game for the club’s long serving centre half, Dick Walker, four days prior to his West Ham league debut game.
West Ham United 5 - 0 Sparta Rotterdam (HT 3-0)
Monday October 14, 1957
Walker's Testimonial Match
West Ham United:
Ernie Gregory, George Wright, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown, Bill Lansdowne, Billy Dare, John Smith, Vic Keeble, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove.
Walker’s testimonial was the third benefit game awarded to a West Ham player. The previous two were Charlie Paynter’s (1950) and Geoff Hallas’ & Brian Moore’s joint benefit (1956).
The testimonial was well earned as Walker’s West Ham career stretched from 1932 to 1957 and straddled World War II. His 25 years’ service included 12 seasons of football league and FA Cup competition as he clocked 307 league and cup appearances. But for the World War II hostilities it is quite possible Dick would have gained an England cap and on the club front threatened Jimmy Ruffell’s club appearance record. Including war-time competitions his claret and blue career covered over 600 games.
Although Walter Richard 'Dick' Walker was born close to the hot bed of Sunday League football at the famous 'Hackney Marshes', this had little effect as it was not until he was 16 that he took up the game in any seriousness.
Having moved to Dagenham with his parents the youngster's first junior league club was Becontree Athletic where he played at inside-forward for the Sunday morning side. It was during one of these fixtures that he was spotted by the West Ham scouting network and invited to tryout with the Hammers.
Walker's earliest recorded fixture playing for West Ham United is in a London Mid-Week League match at Upton Park on Thursday, December 1, 1932.
Our opponents were Fulham "A" and Dick played at centre-half in a team that won 3-0. Two days later he played in another Mid-Week game this time against Arsenal "A". A young professional by the name of Ted Fenton was playing for the Hammers at centre-forward that day.
The following 1933-34 campaign Dick joined west London club Park Royal who also competed in the same Mid-Week League and on one ocassion (March 21, 1934) he opposed his former employees at the Boleyn Ground in a 2-2 draw. The club reconsidered their decision to let him leave and brought him back to the fold to begin an association which was to span more than two decades
25 Year Claret & Blue Association
Signing Professional Forms
The centre-half returned to the Boleyn Ground in the summer of 1934 when he signed professional forms. The first few days of the 1934-35 season saw a meteoric rise in Dick’s professional career. He made his debut for the reserves on the opening day of the season against Portsmouth Reserves. And then two days later on Monday August 27, 1934 he made his first team debut in the right-half berth against Burnley at Upton Park in a Division Two match.
His last first team appearance was in February 1953 when recalled to the first team as a replacement for the injured Malcolm Allison for the Division Two fixture at home to Plymouth Argyle. He continued to play for the reserves and the “A” side in Metropolitan League matches until finally retiring from playing at the end of the 1956-57 season.
Dick Walker's London Mid-Week, London Combination and League debut programmes
Walker’s testimonial match was played in the season West Ham won the Division Two championship in 1957-58. At the time of the floodlight friendly the Hammers were lying 11th in Division Two and on the cusp of making their challenge to move up the league table to clinch the championship.
For Dick Walker his testimonial match attracted a crowd of 19,375 who contributed a healthy £1,869 towards his testimonial fund. This would have been a princely sum back in 1957 when a three bedroom house typically cost around the £2,000 mark.
The attendance was close to the average for home league games to that point in the season and higher than for the two previous Upton Park testimonials.
Of the 33 West Ham testimonial games to date only six have attracted higher crowds.
Van der Lee
The Daily Mail’s match report described Vic Keeble’s showing as “There was a neatness and intelligence in everything Keeble attempted – particularly a flicked header which led to the fifth goal – but the overplayed Dutch boys did not have enough bite to make the game a real and vital test.”
While Dick Walker received the plaudits before kick-off as recognition for his 25 years’ claret and blue service it was the rousing performance and initial glimpse of the John Dick / Vic Keeble partnership which received applause at the final whistle.
The striking duo's instant rapport will be remembered as the turning point in West Ham’s season which culminated in becoming Division Two champions.
Richard 'Dick' Walker
£1,869 Boost to Walker’s Testimonial Fund
It was new signing Vic Keeble who grabbed the match report headlines. Signed on the same day as Dick Walker’s special game he was drafted straight into a Hammers’ side to make a scoring debut as the Hammers ran out comfortable 5-0 winners.
A year earlier Keeble was a member of the opposition All Stars XI side in the Geoff Hallas / Brian Moore testimonial game where he scored the game’s opening goal after two minutes. Against Sparta Rotterdam he took twice as long to find his shooting boots, with his goal timed at four minutes.
Though Vic Keeble’s promising start shouldn’t overshadow John Dick’s performance. Dick was having a torrid time in the league as he had only managed one goal in the last 20 league games. But this all changed with Vic Keeble’s arrival – starting with Walker’s testimonial game. The lanky centre-forward notched a hat-trick with three good goals according to the Daily Mail’s match report. The treble triggered a remarkable turnaround in both his and the team’s league form.
In the opening 12 games of 1957-58 campaign Dick failed to net a single goal. But then Keeble’s arrival sparked a change in fortunes for Dick as the duo formed a formidable scoring partnership to net a total of 40 league goals in 30 matches. Their goal scoring partnership rivals Cottee’s and McAvennie’s in 1985-86.
The Start of Keeble & Dick Goal Scoring Partnership
Turning Point in West Ham's Season
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller