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Just over 60 years ago West Ham awarded its first testimonial match to one of its longest serving and loyal servants. In today’s game of players entering and leaving clubs through fast revolving doors, testimonial matches are as rare as Paulo Di Canio remaining unemotional on the touchline.
In the 1950s through to the 1990s West Ham United regularly awarded testimonial games to several long serving players and staff. The first in 1950 was to arguably the club’s greatest ever servant. An employee who served the club as a player, trainer and manager for 50 years, and subsequently as an “ambassador at large”. By 1950 he had notched up 50 years service. Fifty years with the same organisation is an incredible achievement and hard to imagine it ever being matched today. Who was the recipient of this well deserved testimonial? Charles W.Paynter or as many knew him at the time, “Mr.West Ham”.
On Monday September 18, 1950 at 6.00pm West Ham met Arsenal at Upton Park in Charlie Paynter’s testimonial. Back then West Ham languished in Division II so it was notable recognition for Charlie to attract one of the top clubs from Division I and the holders of the FA Cup. That Monday was a significant success for Charlie and West Ham. Charlie’s testimonial fund was boosted by £2,000 received from the match and programme receipts, plus an additional top up amount from the board to round the sum to £2,000. Plus many dignitaries of the game attended to officially acknowledge Charlie’s contribution to West Ham and the game. The icing on the cake was a West Ham victory over the FA Cup holders.
Upton Park’s First Testimonial Match / Charlie’s Night
Charles Paynter Testimonial Match
A crowd of 18,000 witnessed West Ham beat their north London neighbours 3-1. According to the Stratford Express match report: on this showing (West Ham) more than held their own with the cream of Division 1. It was vintage soccer, played in friendly amiable spirit and it was not from the FA Cup holders that we saw the best football”. West Ham rose to the occasion and produced one of their best performances of the season in Charlie’s honour.
For the record West Ham led at half time 2-0 with goals from Gerry Gazzard (20 mins) and Bill Robinson (27 mins). In the second half Arsenal reduced the arrears with a goal from Doug Lishman (70 mins) before Stan Johns restored the two goal advantage with the Hammers’ third.
The match was not only an important fixture in Charlie Paynter’s career but also for half back Frank O’Farrell. Frank explains this in his 2011 biography “All Change at Old Trafford. The Frank O’Farrell Story”: My first team debut actually came in November 1950 in Charlie’s testimonial game at Upton Park against Arsenal, who had won the FA Cup the previous season. I had gone along just to watch the match, having had my tea, a marvellous meal of Irish stew at my digs. Then all of a sudden I was playing. Tommy Moroney and some other players were injured and I was the only wing-half they had. I had no time to worry about making my debut, which was probably a good thing, and I was thrown in at the deep end against an Arsenal side that had some great players. I was up against a player called Reg Lewis and I felt I had a good game. It probably helped that I didn’t have time to think about the game, or be too nervous. I was inside the gate and then suddenly I was playing – I can’t remember who told me but it was one of the staff looking for me. …I was told I had a good game…
Frank must have impressed as at the end of the next month he made his long awaited league debut.
West Ham took the testimonial game seriously enough to field the same team, with the exception of Moroney, which played in the Division II fixtures two days before and five days after the Arsenal match.
West Ham United:
Ernie Gregory, Ernie Devlin, Steve Forde, Derek Parker, Dick Walker, Frank O’Farrell, Eric Parsons, Stan Johns, Bill Robinson, Gerry Gazzard, Terry Woodgate.
Jack Kelsey, Laurie Scott, Lionel Smith, Arthur Shaw, Leslie Compton, Norman Smith, Ian McPherson, Reg Lewis, Peter Goring, Doug Lishman, Don Roper.
The Arsenal team included four from that which clinched the FA Cup four months earlier: Reg Lewis, who had scored both of Arsenal’s goals in their 2-0 win over Liverpool at Wembley, Leslie Compton, Laurie Scott and Peter Goring.
As an aside the Liverpool team beaten in the May 1950 FA Cup final was managed by ex-Hammer, George Kay.
West Ham United 3 - 1 Arsenal
Upton Park 18th September 1950
The Stratford Express reported: the occasion was one of the most memorable in the history of the club. Throughout the match Mr. Paynter sat flanked on one side by Mr. Arthur Drewry, president of the Football league, and on the other side by Sir Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association. Representatives from every London club and from many in the Provinces attended to pay honour to one of football’s personalities. Among the many guests were Viscount Alexander, Miss Vera Lynn, the East Ham radio star, Sir Herbert Dunnico, J.P., president Essex F.A., and Mr.J.T.Clarke, secretary of the county F.A.
Not surprisingly Mr.Paynter’s 50th anniversary attracted front page coverage with a photo of him receiving an impressive piece of silverware from the club’s directors.
Post Match Presentations to Charlie
After the game several prestigious gifts were presented to Charlie. Two of these, by captain Dick Walker and Reg Pratt’s, are recorded in rare snaps. The table below records these and some more official presentations made. The cigarette lighter and cigarette containers reflect a time when smoking was more prolific and not to be discouraged.
Mementoes of Charlie’s Evening
The occasion was over 60 years ago but we have some exquisite mementoes of the event. These include
Team Group - Pre-match photo of Charlie posing with both teams.
Ex-Hammers gathered for the celebration.
Photo includes West Ham players from the 1923 FA Cup final, the 1940 Football League War Cup final and from the post war seasons.
Presentations to Charlie.
Two official match programmes and Match ticket to the West Stand
Pre-match team group photo of Charlie posing with both teams.
Unusually the testimonial game offered two official programmes, white one for the general public, and a second for guests.
Valued at £50 and £100 respectively.
Paynter shakes hands with Richard Walker
Jack Morton, Vic Watson, Joe Cocroft, Jim Collins, Tommy Hodgson, Dick Leafe, Herman Conway, Ted Fenton, Charlie Paynter, Dave Mangnall, Ted Hufton, Len Young, Stan Foxall and Len Goulden
Second Benefit / Testimonial Game for Charlie
Charlie is one of only three Hammers to have been rewarded with two benefit / testimonial games. The other two are West Ham stalwarts Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin.
Arsenal figured in Charlie’s West Ham career at several crucial times. First he was forced to retire from playing due to an injury received in a reserve team game against the Gunners. To follow up the club awarded Charlie a benefit game November 15, 1906 at the Boleyn Ground and appropriately the opposition was Arsenal. Forty six years later Arsenal returned and in the 1950 celebrations Charlie recalled that he received £40 from his 1906 benefit game which was sufficient “to fit out a very nice flat when I was married that year”.
Charlie’s 80th Birthday Celebration
After the 1950 testimonial Charlie was appointed as West Ham’s “ambassador-at-large”. In this role Charlie assisted in the maintaining friendly relations with West Ham’s match day guests. Nine years after the Arsenal testimonial match, the club hosted a significant birthday celebration. To celebrate Charlie’s 80th birthday on July 29, 1959 the club arranged a special gathering of former West Ham players in the club’s board room at the Boleyn Ground. The event was organised by the West Ham United Old Players’ Association in conjunction with the club. Telegrams of congratulations included one from the Football Association and another from the Football League. On this occasion the club presented Charlie with a canteen of cutlery. The pictures taken at the 1959 birthday celebration are another priceless record of many ex-Hammers from the first half of the twentieth century.
Going back to the 1950 testimonial game, during the half time interval Charlie was introduced to the crowd to publicly receive thanks from chairman Reg Pratt, after which he left the field to a rendition of “for he’s a jolly good fellow”……… and so say all of us.
Tommy Caldwell and Danny Shea at the presentation made to Charlie Paynter July 29, 1959
Back row: Doug Lishman, Lionel Smith
Centre row: Reg Lewis, Don Roper, Peter Goring, Laurie Scott, Jack Kelsey
Front row: Ian McPherson, Arthur Shaw, Leslie Compton