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On Saturday January 21st, 2012, Ernie Gregory sadly passed away aged 90. During his 50 years service to West Ham he must have had countless memorable matches and occasions. He played in 422 competitive West Ham games spread across the league (382), the FA Cup (24), the Southern Floodlight Cup (9) and the Essex Professional Cup (7). Contenders for his most memorable matches would probably have included the April 1958 Division Two game away at Middlesborough which clinched the Division Two title and promotion, and the 1956 FA Cup 6th round games versus Spurs which saw Ernie narrowly miss out on a FA Cup semi-final. Those games are well documented in the West Ham history books. But there is a third match which receives scant coverage and which Ernie must have felt great pride in participating in.
This was his representative honour of playing for the England “B” team in a “B” international in 1952. On May 22nd, 1952 Ernie was selected to play in the international against France in Le Harve. Unfortunately for Ernie it was a baptism of fire! In front of a 7,000 crowd England suffered a 7-1 defeat. In all of his 422 competitive games for the Hammers, Ernie never let in more than six. So what was career wise his most important 90 minutes, also became one of his most disappointing results.
For the record Ernie shared the pitch with many big names in both sides. His England “B” colleagues included a handful who went on to win full caps. These were John Wheeler, Ray Barlow and Gordon Astall. But in the French side that May 1952 day were a couple of players who were destined for far greater achievements. The French “B” team included Raymond Kopa and Roger Piantoni who both scored in their 7-1 victory. Six years later these two Frenchmen appeared for France in their 1958 World Cup semi-final against Brazil. Brazil won the semi-final 5-2 thanks to a hat-trick from an up and coming player called Pele. Piantoni scored one of France’s goals. In the subsequent 3rd/4th play-off game, Kopa scored a penalty in France’s 6-3 win over West Germany.
“B” international statistics
FRANCE ESPOIRS 7-1 ENGLAND B [HT 3-0]
France Espoirs: S Curyl, Cesari, Roger Piantoni 2, Gaulon, Domingo, Raymond Kopa
England B: Ray Barlow
Robert le Maitre
Unfortunately, Ernie never received another international call up but he did have the satisfaction of making a significant contribution to future West Ham team successes as goalkeeper and more latterly as a coach.
Thank you, Ernie.
Ernie Gregory (West Ham)
Phil Gunter (Portsmouth)
Stan Wicks (Reading)
John Wheeler (Bolton Wanderers)
Joseph Kennedy (WBA)
Ray Barlow (WBA)
Gordon Astall (Plymouth Argyle)
Robert Foster (Preston North End)
Wilf Grant (Cardiff City)
Les Shannon (Burnley)
Derek Hawksworth (Sheffield United)
Ernie’s England “B” Cap
Testimonial / Recognition
Date of Birth:
November 10, 1921
Ground staff 1936
24 FA Cup
9 Southern Floodlit Cup
7 Essex Professional Cup