1940 Football League War Cup Final Blackburn Rovers

Wartime Football (1940): West Ham's Cup Win

10:13 PMAleks Vee

West Ham's Archie Macaulay carries the trophy alongside his teammates

Football During WWII

GoalChatter introduces a unique series that will highlight the oft-forgotten games, players and managers of wartime football around the world.

West Ham United 1-0 Blackburn Rovers
June 8, 1940, kick-off: 6:30pm
Wembley, London
Attendance: 42,300
Referee: G. Dutton (Warwick)
Goal: Sam Small (34')
The last pre-war Football League fixtures were played on September 2, 1939, the day before British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. Mass gatherings of crowds were subsequently banned, and both the Football League and FA Cup cancelled. On September 14, the government began to make limited exceptions, allowing friendlies to be played with crowds of up to 8,000, and later 15,000, but as time would tell, far more would attend the Football League War Cup finals. There was also a fifty-mile traveling limit, but English football would find a way around that as well with the establishment of ten regional leagues and the War Cup tournament. 137 games were played over the course of just 9 weeks leading up to the inaugural final of the Football League War Cup. West Ham reached the final by beating Fulham 4-3 in the Fifth Round, while Blackburn's 1-0 win against Newcastle was enough to see them through.


An hour before kick-off, the crowd was entertained  by the Band of the Irish Guards, under Director of Music Lieutenant G. H. Wilcocks, A.R.C.M., p.s.m. The band performed six numbers, one of them being excerpts from the film "Gulliver's Travels". Collections were made throughout the match on behalf of the Football Association's Fund to support footballers serving in the armed forces.

The Final

Despite the dangers of an air raid, over 42,000 came to Wembley to see West Ham play Blackburn, including some of the wounded of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who had returned from Dunkirk. The match programme even indicated that in the event of a draw, an extra half hour would be played. It is said that the Hammers' supporters sang "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", a popular early twentieth-century American song that remains a club anthem to this day. West Ham dominated the game, keeping Blackburn keeper James Barron and defender Bob Pryde busy. Centre forward and ambulance-builder Sam Small scored the only goal for West Ham in the first half after teammate Alec George Foreman's shot was saved by Barron.

West Ham supporters singing "Bubbles" at Wembley, 72 years later:

Half Time

The Band of His Majesty's Irish Guards plays the "Royal Birthday" march and the French march "Lorraine". Here they are nine years later:


A.V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, presented the trophy to West Ham, with defender Charlie Bicknell carrying it off past the cheering supporters. It was West Ham's first victory at Wembley. The Hammers had waited seventeen years since losing in the FA Cup final to Bolton for a chance to lift the trophy, and although it was a different one this time around, the honor was no less prestigious.

Neither West Ham nor Blackburn would see either the Football League or FA Cup final for quite some time. Twenty years would pass until Blackburn made the final of the FA Cup in 1960, which they then lost 3-0 to Wolverhampton. West Ham won the FA Cup four years later, in 1964.

The Players

Outside right Sam Small, whose lone goal won the Cup for his team, was in his fourth season at West Ham. He had scored 14 league goals in the season before the war, and was characterized in the match programme as "an unselfish type of player who gives a wholehearted ninety minutes for his club in every game". 

West Ham's George Foreman
West Ham's Alec George Foreman was a talented centre-forward. Although he didn't make the scoreboard in the War Cup final, he totaled 188 goals in 234 appearances for West Ham during the war. Foreman also served as an air-craft engineer. He transferred to Tottenham in March 1946, where he continued his illustrious career, scoring 15 goals in 37 games. 

James Barron, the Blackburn keeper whose diving save wasn't enough to prevent a West Ham goal, had joined the Rovers as a Junior from Blyth Spartans. He had been playing in the North-Eastern League in County Durham, where he was engaged on munitions, and played in the Cup final as a guest. Although there are few records available, all signs suggest that Barron must have played for Darlington during the war, as it was the only County Durham club in the N.E. League. 

Other West Ham and Blackburn players served in various capacities during the war. West Ham's Archie Macaulay, who made 5 appearances for Scotland during the war, was a Sergeant in the Essex Regiment. He was respected for his talent in front of goal as well as his personality, and would go on to join Brentford and later Arsenal. He would also have a successful spell as manager at Norwich. West Ham wing-half Joe Cockroft worked at a steelworks and guested for Sheffield Wednesday, where he later transferred. Dick Walker served in the British Army with an infantry battalion who fought from Alamein to Italy. He played football for the Army while in the Middle East. Walker took over as West Ham captain upon his return. Full back Charlie Walker (no relation) served in the Royal Air Force, working as a draughtsman in an aircraft factory. Deemed one of West Ham's best left-backs, he was also a good tennis player and swimmer.  

Ted Fenton coaching West Ham in 1953
Wing-Half Ted Fenton was a Physical Training instructor at the Army Physical Training School. He was in his 10th season with the club at the time of the Cup Final. Fenton took over from Charlie Paynter, managing West Ham for 11 years and leading them to the Old Division Two championship. In 1958, Fenton helped the team return to the top flight for the first time since 1932. Former teammate Dick Walker played for the reserves and was a talented, devoted youth coach during Fenton's managerial spell. He was popular among everyone but Fenton, and unfortunately, this led to Walker's exit from the club.

Blackburn right-back Bob Pryde was an army P.T. instructor who later guested for West Ham. The Scot shone in the season prior to the Cup final. Blackburn captain Walter Crook, the club's one locally-reared player, served as a Sergeant-Instructor. 

The Rovers lost two players from their Cup Final roster during the War. Striker Frank Chivers, who had previously played for Huddersfield Town, netting in 16 goals in 50 appearances, died in a mining accident in 1942. Forward Albert Clarke, who scored 21 goals in 41 appearances for the Hammers and also guested for Torquay, was a private with the Devonshire Regiment. He died in 1944 while on active service.  

The Managers

West Ham's Charlie Paynter and the Hammers' first manager, Syd King 

England international Bob Crompton
West Ham's Charlie Paynter was the kind of manager who hadn't played professionally, but did a good job at the helm. He started off as the Hammers' reserve-team trainer after an injury cut his playing career short. Paynter later became assistant manager under Syd King. Taking over from King, the Hammers' first and longest-serving manager, Paynter became the second longest-serving, coaching the team for 18 years. He worked at the club in various capacities for 50 years, earning him the nickname "Mr. West Ham" as well as a testimonial match. As manager, he produced a 41.25 win percentage which remained unrivaled until Billy Bonds's reign in the 1990's. 

Blackburn's Bob Crompton guided the Riversiders to the final of the inaugural Football League War Cup. He experienced the wartime leagues during both World Wars, first as a player, then as a manager. Though a one-club man with Blackburn, he guested for Blackpool during WWI. He captained Blackburn as well as the England national team, leading the former to their first two Football League titles. He ended his playing career at 40 years of age, and went on to have two coaching stints with the Rovers, the second of which came during WWII. Crompton filled Blackburn's trophy shelves both times that he was manager, winning the 1928 FA Cup and 1938-39 Second Division title, and saving the team from relegation during his second reign. Crompton died in 1941 on the evening of his team's 3-2 win over Burnley. He is still regarded as one of Blackburn's all-time greats. "The original Mr. Blackburn", he spent a total of 24 years in the club as a player and 8 years as a manager.

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