The formation of West Ham is a well-trodden path, we were born out of the Thames Ironworks football club, Arnold Hills is the godfather of West Ham and without him, the club would not have existed. Now I'm not going to come on here and say that’s not true, but there is so much more to the birth of West Ham and how we got here 119 later, or 124 years, depending on what side of history you sit on.
AS A KID GROWING UP WEST HAM’S FORMATION WAS 1900.
In 1895 Dave Taylor, a foreman at the Thames Ironworks placed an advert in the Thames Ironworks Gazette, the in house newspaper of the works, for footballers to form a works team. Hills was keen to improve the lives of workers and one of his ways was through sport.
Hills himself was a keen footballer, playing for Oxford University, and once it is said for England against Scotland.
Arnold Hills though tried to impose some restrictions on who could play for the team and how players should conduct themselves. He would have preferred all players to be workers for the Ironworks, and non-professional. Also, he wanted players to abstain from alcohol, Hills being a teetotal himself, as well as president of the London vegetarian society.
Now organised football in the East of London was already in existence and not so far away from Canning town, where the main Ironworks was based, there already had been a club that was on its way to a different type of success. The first FA Cup competition took place in 1872 and one of the fifteen teams entered was from an area we all know. Upton Park FC played in West Ham Park, just a short walk away from Green street, roughly halfway between there and Stratford. In 1900 Great Britain won football Olympic gold in Paris, all the players for Great Britain came from one club, Upton Park FC. Madly, UPFC had actually disbanded a couple of years beforehand but reformed to represent Britain.
Meanwhile, back in Canning Town, The Ironworks team was taking shape, but as years progressed the committee running the club, to improve the quality of the team, had resulted in bringing no only players, not of the Ironworks, but also paid professionals.
1899, and all was not well at the Ironworks, the business was expanding, and in doing so, needed all its money. The works team now all but professional and Hills thought was no longer representative of his workforce or his values, something had to give.
Hills gave notice that he was to wind the club up but he would not turn his back on it totally.
In March 1900 a meeting took place at Canning town public hall to drum up support for a new football club to replace the soon to be defunct TIWFC.
The story goes at this meeting the new name was debated, Canning Town FC was one name, but it was agreed to broaden the name to West Ham United to represent the wider borough, not just the small area on the banks of the Lea and the Thames. And so it was, around the end of June 1900 TIWFC was folded, and the phoenix out of those foundry ashes was West Ham United.
July the 4th, 1900 and in the Thames Ironworks sports and social club Offices, situated at 55 Barking Road seven of the new clubs committee signed the document that the next day, formed West Ham United FC.
Not so much a new club, as in the articles of association it was said that West Ham would continue the work the TIWFC had done in the area, but still, it was a different club to the one that had gone before it.
Personally speaking, for me, West Ham was formed in 1900, not 1895. The people running the club now were not all Ironworks men, some were local businessmen that traded with the Ironworks, some though were not. One was actually a farmer, and his farm was situated on the site where some 81 years later, I would attend the school that had been built there.
What of Arnold Hills though? Nowadays you can eat meat and drink alcohol in the corporate lounge, named after him, of a professional club. Three facets that Hills objected to for his works team. He had, in fact, kept shares in the club, in 1900 when forming WHU for every share purchased he would buy a share as well, and that shareholding he owned, stayed with his family until the club was sold in 2006 to the Icelandics.
Now I'm not trying to rewrite history or try and sully Arnold Hills name and his part in our history, but, in 1904 when West Ham moved into the Boleyn, the reason was Hills was evicting the club from The Memorial Gardens, possibly due to arguments over the amount of rent to be paid. One rumour was he had lined up Clapton Orient to actually replace West Ham as tenants of his ground. For me though that lessons how Hills should be celebrated, I don’t think we should ignore what he did, but there was friction it seems between him, and those that took up the mantle of starting again when he had enough.
Next week I will try to tell the story of the men who took on running West Ham in 1900, and one family name there will be well known to West Ham fans of today.
Away from history, I want to just cover the use of VAR.
Frankly, as a fan in the ground, VAR has the possibility of seriously damaging fans enjoyment.
Goals allowed, then 2 minutes later disallowed
Goals celebrated then 2 minutes later fans made to feel fools.
The moment a goal is scored is THE moment for the fans of unadulterated joy and to have that removed by someone watching and judging off a TV screen for me is wrong, and another nail in the coffin of the game as a fan spectacle in the ground.
I tweeted at the end of the game that football is going to hell in a handcart and normally on reflection after time elapsed I can look back and think that would have been an extreme reaction. 9 hours later, I stand by that tweet.