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Which Hammer’s testimonial game attendance has only been topped by Sir Geoff Hurst’s?
The answer is Wally St. Pier’s benefit game on Monday May 5, 1975.
The 25,074 who attended Wally’s special game has only been exceeded by that for Geoff Hurst’s testimonial against a European XI four years earlier. The Wally St. Pier testimonial crowd exceeded that for many Hammer legends’ benefit games, including Bobby Moore’s, Trevor Brooking’s, Billy Bonds’ and Malcolm Allison’s.
The high attendance for St. Pier's special game was partly down to impeccable timing. It was staged barely two days after West Ham’s 1975 Wembley FA Cup triumph! On the Monday evening following Saturday’s scintillating victory over Fulham the Hammers used the occasion to show their appreciation to their fans by showing off the cup and the winning team.
Over 25,000 turned up to witness the evening’s entertainment and to honour Wally. Incidentally the attendance was higher than for four of that season’s league games.
Four West Ham United Teams
Monday May 5, 1975
Wally St. Pier was deservedly awarded a testimonial after 45 years service for the club, and for about half of his tenure he over saw the club’s scouting system.
His West Ham playing career spanned 11 seasons, starting out for the reserves in season 1928-29, before making his first team debut a year later against Leicester City at Upton Park on October 12, 1929.
Although Wally only amassed 24 first team appearances, he did record a hefty 156 reserve team outings contributing two goals.
When Wally retired from playing Charlie Paynter offered the 30-year-old a job as club “scout”. In the immediate pre-World War II years he helped to add many young players to the gound staff.
The war brought a partial break in Wally’s connections, but peace-time found him back in his old job as he headed up a scouting system which bore the fruits of an endless stream of star players including Moore, Hurst and Peters.
Wally’s scouting contribution to the club was priceless so the evening’s estimated £15,000 testimonial income was a well earned pay back.
1963 FA Youth Cup Winners XI (3 - 1) 1975 FA Youth Cup Finalists
The evening’s billing of nostalgia included two games and a parade of the FA Cup.
The evening kicked off with a 35 minute each way game between a 1963 FA Youth Cup XI and 1975’s FA Youth Cup finalists. Eighteen year olds against 30 year olds!
A rewarding moment for Hammers’ chief scout Wally St. Pier as he holds the FA Cup on the Upton Park pitch before the start of his testimonial night
Just two of the great sights on the Upton Park pitch
Wally St. Pier in his playing days circa 1930
The curtain opener was followed by the 1975 FA Cup winning XI, Ron Greenwood and John Lyall parading the silverware.
The finale of the evening was a “past v present” match: the 1975 winners playing a 1964 FA Cup XI.
Wally with three of his signings, Paul Brush, Alan Curbishley and Frank Lampard
1964 FA Cup Winners (0 - 0) 1975 FA Cup Winners
FA Cup Parade
The senior teams were led out by the captains, Billy Bonds and Bobby Moore, holding the FA Cup followed by the 1975 XI parading the cup around the ground, before passing it to Ron Greenwood and John Lyall who also lifted it aloft at the centre circle. Finally, the evening’s benefactor, Wally St.Pier posed with the trophy.
Left: Billy Bonds with the FA Cup and Bobby Moore back in the claret and blue
Right: Birds of a feather, Alan "Sparrow" Taylor and "Budgie" Byrne
Surprisingly the main game of the evening was scoreless. Hard to believe the teams from 1964 and 1975 playing an exhibition match could not manage a single goal between them! Though Kevin Lock had a second half effort disallowed.
Despite no goals the fans were able to watch the club’s heroes from the 1960s Wembley triumphs turn out in force and keep a clean sheet against the latest cup winners.
Players appearing against the 1975 XI included: Jim Standen, Alan Dickie, John Bond, Jack Burkett, Joe Kirkup, Eddie Bovington, Martin Peters, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Brian Dear, Alan Sealey, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Byrne and Geoff Hurst.
The only member missing from the 1964 and 1965 winning cup teams was John Sissons who was away playing in the USA.
The May evening nearly 40 years ago was a unique occasion of claret and blue entertainment. It was a rare opportunity for West Ham fans to wallow in nostalgia as the cup winning XIs from the 1960s and 1970s met to honour one of the club’s longest serving Hammers, Wally St.Pier. Hopefully, we will not have to wait another 40 years for a similar event.
Veterans of the 1964 and 1965 Wembley Finals XI
Back: Peter Brabrook, Jack Burkett, Ken Brown, Martin Peters, John Bond, Bobby Moore, Jim Standen
Front: Geoff Hurst, Johnny Byrne, Eddie Bovington, Ron Boyce
Wally St. Pier Testimonial
The Youth of 1975 versus the 1963 FA Youth Cup winners kicked off the evening’s proceedings. The class of 63’ with age, and in some cases a little more portly around the middle than 12 years previously had the experience to overcome the kid’s of 75’ as the elders ran out 3-1 winners.
With barely 5 minutes on the clock a Harry Redknapp centre was headed home by Bobby Howe. A minute later and Roger Cross shoots to score the second. Cross also added to his tally early in the second half before youngster Geoff Pike responded for the 1975 side.
Six of 1963’s FA Youth Cup winning XI turned out: goalkeeper Colin Mackleworth, captain John Charles, top goal scorer Martin Britt, Bobby Howe, Bill Kitchener and Harry Redknapp, the former 'Chicken Run' favourite and who was undoubtedly the man of the match was cheered every time he touched the ball. All too much for the under 18s of 1975!
Others who faced the then current 1975 youth team included keeper Peter Grotier who replaced Mackleworth in the second half, Bob Glozier, Paul Heffer, Jimmy Lindsay, Roger Cross and Trevor Hartley.
John Lyall and Ron Greenwood proudly holding aloft the FA Cup
Cup of Joy
John Lyall and Wally St. Pier
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller
Wally St. Pier Star Finder
Image courtesy of Steve Peters