Welcome to the West Ham United Memorabilia Collection featuring everything Claret and Blue
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West Ham United:
Robert Dixon, Alfred Earl, Reg Wade, Jim Collins, Jim Barrett, Fred Norris, Jim Wood, Wilf James, Vivian Gibbins, Tommy Weldon, Jim Harris.
Unable to confirm goalscorers or attendance for the Isthmian League match
The Hammers fielded a strong XI against the amateur Isthmian League representative side. Five days earlier seven of West Ham’s team played in the Division One 5-2 defeat away to Aston Villa.
The seven first teamers who appeared at Villa Park were: Robert Dixon, Alfred Earl, Jim Collins, Jim Barrett, Fred Norris, Jim Wood and Tommy Weldon. The other four all made league appearances at various stages throughout the season.
Testimonial games in the last 80 years have typically been to recognise a player’s long service with a single club. The income generated by the game is a reward to help them financially after they have retired from playing and seek alternative employment.
But going back to pre-World War Two (1939-45), benefit matches would also be arranged to help a club servant’s family following their early death. Fortunately, this was not a regular occurrence but nevertheless it is a reminder of how times have changed and standards of living improved.
In 1931 for the first and only time in the club’s history, West Ham United posthumously awarded a testimonial game for one of their loyal servants.
This was for Frank Piercy who had recently died at the relatively young age of 50. Frank had served the club for 26 years, first as a player and then as club trainer.
The posthumous testimonial game was the second time the Irons had marked their appreciation of his contribution to the club. Twenty one years earlier he had been the recipient of a benefit game.
Born: Haverton Hill, Stockton-on-Tees July 6, 1880. Frank died June 5, 1931 aged 50
Virtual Trophy Cabinet
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First Hammer to 200 Appearance Milestone
Frank Piercy, a centre-half, was one of West Ham United’s first “star” players from their Southern League days. Signed from Middlesbrough during the Hammers’ first season at the Boleyn Ground in 1904, he made his first team debut in the inaugural game at Upton Park against Millwall. Two goals from William Bridgeman and another from Jack Flynn sealed a 3-0 victory on September 1, 1904.
Three seasons after moving to east London, Frank took over the captain’s role when Dave Gardner left for Croydon Common in 1907. As a defender his tough tackling meant he often fell foul of the referee and earned Frank the nickname the “Old War Horse”. Perhaps a “Julian Dicks” of his day he suffered a suspension and a sending off.
A one-month suspension was handed out by the F.A. in September 1907, for punching an opposition player in the match against Swindon Town. Five-months later on February 22, 1908 he was sent off in a bruising Southern League encounter with local rivals Millwall.
Piercy became the third-ever West Ham player to receive his marching orders, Henry Hird was the first on October 31, 1897 in a 3-1 victory in the London League game against Leyton (3-1). The second player to take an early bath was goalkeeper Matthew Kingsley in the Southern League defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion March 25, 1905.
Non-League Hammers FA Cup Giant-Killers
Piercy went on to enjoy eight seasons of first team action before hanging up his boots in January 1912. During his time with the Hammers he was the first player to reach the milestone of 200 first team league appearances. This came in the 2-0 home win over Brentford on April 15, 1911. His final claret and blue total was 214 Southern League appearances (7 goals) and 17 FA Cup games.
Frank’s milestone appearances stood as a club record for just three months. On April 22, 1912, in the penultimate game of 1911-12 season, team mate Fred Blackburn claimed the bragging rights when making his 215th appearance at the County Ground against Swindon Town. Three seasons later, right winger Herbert Ashton took over the mantle of the appearance record holder.
The table below displays the five players who registered the most Southern League appearances in West Ham United’s 15 seasons of Southern League football.
West Ham United 1904-05
Back row: T. Bamlett, A. Fair, M. Kingsley, D. Gardiner, S. King (Secretary)
Middle row: T. Robinson (Trainer), F. Brunton, T. Allison, F. Piercy, J. Russell, L. Jarvis, F. Mercer, C. Paynter (Assistant Trainer)
Front row: W. McCartney, C. Simmons, W. Bridgeman, J. Fletcher, C. Carrick, J. Flynn
Club Captain 1907
One of the many highlights of Frank's playing career would undoubtedly have been in the 1910-11 season when he captained the non-league Hammers in the FA Cup against four teams from the top flight of English football at the Boleyn Ground.
Relegation candidates Nottingham Forest were beaten 2-1 in the 1st round. In the following round Preston North End, who finished the season in fourteenth place, were defeated 3-0.
The 3rd round tie on February 25, 1911 saw Manchester United arrive at the Boleyn Ground. The pre-World War One side were a major force at the time and went on to win the First Division championship that season.
The match against the Red Devils attracted a record attendance of 27,000 and the home supporters were not disappointed. West Ham, unusually wearing white shirts, caused the major upset of the season as their guests were humbled 2-1 at Upton Park and left with their tail between their legs.
Goals from Thomas Caldwell and Danny Shea sent the Hammers through to the 4th round for the first time in the club’s history. Coincidentally the two scorers had also scored the Hammers’ two goals in Frank Piercy’s benefit match a year earlier.
The Hammers came down to earth with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of their fourth First Division opponents Blackburn Rovers who finished the season twelfth in the table.
Charlie Paynter’s New Assistant Trainer
Frank Piercy's last first team appearance came ten-months later on January 20, 1912 in the Upton Park Southern League fixture against Plymouth Argyle. The popular centre-back received an injury which effectively ended his playing days.
On retiring, he was appointed the Hammers’ assistant reserve-team trainer under Charlie Paynter. A role he fulfilled for 19 years until his untimely death in June 1931. At the end of World War One he also took over the management of the Hammers' reserve side in the London Combination.
During this spell he was often invited to be a “sponge man” for senior amateur representative teams, including the Isthmian League. A connection maintained when an Isthmian League XI provided the opposition in his posthumous testimonial.
Ill-Health and Operations
Inaugural Game at the Boleyn Ground
In a sad end the Coroner recorded mis-adventure and mis-diagnosis as the cause of his death. In April 1931 he was initially operated on for “middle ear disease”, but this did not resolve his suffering and he was advised to have a second operation.
On May 24 an inter-cranial abscess was mis-diagnosed when he was suffering from acute meningitis which led to the coma from which he later died in early June.
Another reflection on a different time was how funerals were reported. The Stratford Express’ coverage of Frank Piercy’s funeral ran to several column inches. The report included a long list of the prominent mourners and who they represented.
At the relatively young age of 51 Frank suffered from “ear problems” from which he ultimately died. The Stratford Express gave an account of the unsuccessful operations to save his life, and his funeral.
One of Four Hammers to Receive Double Recognition
In the club’s 112 year history Frank Piercy is just one of only four club servants to have been granted a brace of benefit / testimonial games. Many fans will recall Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin both being awarded two testimonial games in recognition of their long claret and blue playing careers.
And before these two, Charlie Paynter, Mr. West Ham United, was also a double recipient with a benefit match in the club’s Southern League days in 1904 and 46 years later he was granted a well deserved testimonial match in recognition of his fifty years club service.
A little-known fact is that Frank Piercy was the first Hammer to be honoured with double recognition. A summary of the two special matches follows:
1. Frank Piercy’s Benefit Game
West Ham United 2 - 2 New Brompton
Saturday January 1, 1910
West Ham United:
Goals: Caldwell, Shea
John Geggus, Frederick Shreeve, Robert Fairman, Fred Massey, Frank Piercy, Tommy Randall, Herbert Ashton, Danny Shea, Frank Cannon, Fred Blackburn, Thomas Caldwell
As a reward for six years’ first team action Frank was granted the Southern League fixture against New Brompton on New Year’s Day 1910 as his benefit game. (Three-years later New Brompton changed their name to Gillingham.)
In the pre-Football League days instead of a friendly testimonial fixture, a league match would be earmarked as a benefit game with the player receiving the gate money. It was reported in the Essex County Chronicle that Frank received the princely sum of £143. 4s from the 7,000 Boleyn Ground attendance.
THE ESSEX COUNTY CHRONICLE
March 25, 1910
2. Frank Piercy’s Testimonial Match
Frank Piercy’s second benefit was played between the First and the Second World Wars. Back in the early 1930s it was a different time when typically workers were not members of a pension scheme which would have provided life assurance and a widow’s pension.
So in the event of a worker’s death their family would undoubtedly have faced great financial hardship. In West Ham United’s case it had forged a reputation of being a “family club” who cared about its players and their families. When Frank died in June 1931 aged just 50, the club was quick to provide some financial help for his widow and three children.
The directors arranged what can be regarded as the club's first testimonial match albeit posthumously. Certainly, West Ham’s first since becoming a Football League club in 1919. On Thursday October 1, 1931, West Ham played an Isthmian League representative side at Upton Park with the game’s proceeds going to Frank’s widow.
West Ham United 5 - 0 Isthmian League XI
Thursday October 1, 1931
West Ham United v. Manchester United
FA Cup Third Round - February 25, 1911
Piercy in action
Frank Piercy, followed by Bob Fairman, leads the white shirted Hammers on to the
Boleyn Ground pitch
THE WESTERN DAILY PRESS BRISTOL
January 3, 1910
British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
West Ham United v. Leicester City
October 3, 1931
Football wasn’t the only sport Frank excelled at. He was also a notable cricket player, won an Essex County Bowls Badge and held a golf handicap of two at his peak.
1909-10 West Ham players, management & officals attending a golf day
Back row: Dan Woodards, unknown, unknown, Tommy Randall, unknown, William Silor.
Middle row: Tom Robinson (trainer), William Lavery, unknown, unknown, Robert Fairman,
George Kitchen, unknown, Frederick Massey.
Front row: Syd King (manager), Herbert Ashton, Vincent Haynes, Frederick Shreeve,
Fred Blackburn & Frank Piercy.