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West Ham’s First Testimonial Game for Players
Geoff Hallas’ & Brian Moore’s Short West Ham Careers
A professional footballer’s career is typically short and if free of significant injury can be the best part of 10 years. For those less fortunate who do suffer a serious injury their playing careers can quickly be cruelly severed. In the mid 1950s two young West Ham players suffered this misfortune. Geoff Hallas, a full back, and Brian Moore, an inside forward, were forced to retire when aged 24 and 21 respectively.
Many ex-players have referred to the family atmosphere as a valuable factor in their time at the club. The story of Geoff Hallas and Brian Moore is worth recounting as it highlights how the club applied pastoral care and support to players struck by misfortune and as a result had to pursue new careers outside the game.
Eye Injuries Soon into their West Ham Careers
Geoff signed in March 1954 from the Wiltshire Western League club, Warminster Town FC, and Brian signed in February of the following year from his Northern Ireland club, Distillery.
Geoff’s and Brian’s short careers had many similarities. They both had December birthdays: Geoff was born on December 8, 1930 and Brian on December 29, three years later. They both joined the Hammers within 11 months of each other, when Geoff was 23 and Brian 21. Just over a year later they suffered head/eye injuries which led to the curtailment of their professional careers.
Geoff’s head injury was incurred during a reserve team match against Charlton Athletic Reserves early in the 1955-56 season. A blow to his head affected his sight and he was soon advised by doctors to give up football to avoid the risk of permanent injury. In Brian’s case the injury was suffered in a Division Two game on Boxing Day 1955 three days before his 22nd birthday. The Stratford Express match report simply said “An injury to inside right Brian Moore, however, gave their attack a disjointed look and as a result many promising moves came to nothing.”
The seriousness of their injuries and the position it left the players in soon became apparent. It was not long before the club’s board started discussions on how best to help the players, and reached the decision to award the two young players a joint testimonial match.
Before we cover the testimonial game and the subsequent handling of the financial side, and the further support given to the two unfortunate players, this feature recounts their short and promising West Ham careers.
First XI Debuts in Upton Park Friendlies
Their careers were incredibly short and their first XI appearances were restricted to the 1955 calendar year. Both made their first team debuts in friendly games. Geoff’s was 10 months after joining the club when he played in the January 29, 1955, 4-1 victory over first division Portsmouth at Upton Park. The Stratford Express reported “Hallas did well to hold the dangerous Portsmouth winder Harris and, apart from a tendency to over kick, he gave a sound and impressive debut."
Brian’s debut was the month after his signing in the floodlit home 8-2 thrashing of Austrian side SC Simmering (February 19, 1955). Geoff also played in this 8-2 win but had the misfortune to score an own goal. This was the only first XI game where Geoff and Brian played in the same team.
On Tuesday March 22, 1955 Brian Moore also had the distinction of playing in the first game to be televised live from Upton Park. This was the drawn friendly versus Holland Sports.
Their competitive debuts soon followed.
Taylor, Wright, Hallas, Malcolm, Allison, O'Farrell, Hooper, Bennett, Sexton, Dick, Musgrove
Upton Park : January 29, 1955
West Ham United 4 - 1 Portsmouth
Taylor, Hallas, Kinsell, Malcolm, Allison, O'Farrell, Hooper, Moore, Dare, Bennett, Musgrove
Upton Park : February 19, 1955
West Ham United 8 - 2 Sportklub Simmering (Austria)
Geoff Hallas’ Football League Debut
Leeds United provided the Upton Park opposition for Hallas' debut on Saturday March 5, 1955. The club’s record books confirm Geoff’s three league appearances towards the end of 1954-55 as his only league appearances. Two more home games versus Liverpool (April 27) and Lincoln (April 30) turned out to be his last.
For Hallas' league debut in the 2-1 win over Leeds United the team was:
George Taylor, George Wright, Geoff Hallas, Andy Malcolm, Malcolm Allison, Frank O’Farrell, Harry Hooper, Les Bennett, Albert Foan, Billy Dare, Malcolm Musgrove.
Football League Debut
For Brian Moore the story was similar. He made his league debut after Geoff’s league career was finished. In the same 1954-55 season Brian made a solitary appearance in front of 5,675 away at Nottingham Forest in the season’s final fixture a 1-1 draw on Saturday May 2. The team that afternoon was:
George Taylor, George Wright, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, Malcolm Allison, Derek Parker, Albert Foan, Brian Moore, Billy Dare, John Dick, Jimmy Andrews.
The following season he played in a further eight league games scoring a single goal before succumbing to an eye injury on Boxing Day 1955. The eight Division Two matches included a run of seven games through November and December. Brian’s only league goal came in a 3-2 defeat away at Rotherham United. Only once in his nine league appearances was Moore in the winning team.
Billy Dare Connection
Another player who joined the Hammers around the same time as Moore was Billy Dare who signed from Brentford in January 1955, a month before Brian. Moore’s first team debut and Hallas' league debut were in the same matches as Billy Dare. Brian and Billy’s first team debut was the February 8-2 win over SC Simmering, and Geoff’s and Billy’s West Ham league debuts was against Leeds United on March 5, 1955. Billy marked his first team debut with four goals in the win over SC Simmering.
Friendlies Against Former Clubs
The transfer terms for both players included West Ham sending teams to play a friendly against their former clubs. Both of these friendlies were late in the 1954-55 season.
Distillery 2-2 West Ham United
For Moore’s transfer agreement West Ham visited Belfast to play Distillery in March, 1955. Brian was appointed captain for the evening and led the team to a 2-2 draw in the Hammers first ever visit to Northern Ireland. West Ham led at half time 2-0 before allowing Distillery back into the game. Six months later Distillery visited Upton Park for a high goal scoring game where the Hammers ran out 7-5 winners with Brian contributing a goal. The goal was described as “in the 79th minute Brian Moore, playing against his old club, burst through on his own to beat Callow (Distillery’s goal keeper)”. In the Upton Park return one of Distillery’s goal scorers was a young Derek Dougan, the future Wolverhampton Wanderers and Northern Ireland star.
On Monday April 4, 1955 a month after the Belfast visit, Geoff and Brian were team mates in the friendly against a FA Amateur International XI. While the line up was of reserve strength, Brian had the consolation of scoring the game’s only goal. Later in the year Brian also scored in the first XI’s 4-2 Upton Park win over Millwall (October 31, 1955).
Warminster Town 2-1 West Ham United XI
In Geoff’s case West Ham visited Warminster Town on Monday April 25, 1955 with the Hammers rolling out as 2-1 winners. The town’s local paper, The Warminster Journal, reported on a by gone age when explaining “At the conclusion of the game the Warminster Town Supporters Club Committee have kindly undertaken to provide a dinner in their Club hut”. Match tickets were advertised at 2 shillings for the 6.15pm kick off. The paper did not quote the West Ham goal scorers but the team managed by Harry Hooper senior included eight players with first team experience: Peter Chiswick, John Bond, Geoff Hallas, Ken Brown, Doug Bing, Albert Foan, Jimmy Andrews and Ken Tucker.
Unfortunately, just five days after Geoff’s visit to play against his former club he played his third and final league game for the Hammers. His competitive first team career was over.
Essex Professional Cup & London Challenge Cup
Geoff Hallas and Brian Moore also shared the honour of being members of a winning West Ham cup final side albeit the Essex Professional Cup (EPC). The final of the 1954-55 EPC, though played in August 1955 of the following season, was a draw which meant West Ham and Southend United ended the tournament as joint winners. Again Brian was on the score sheet in the 3-3 draw.
The team for the EPC final was:
Ernie Gregory, John Bond, Geoff Hallas, Dave Sexton, Andy Nelson, Gordon Johnstone, Roy Stroud, Brian Moore, Alan Blackburn, Albert Foan, Ken Tucker.
Brian also played in another cup final on March 7, 1955. This was the home replay of the London Challenge Cup final against Arsenal. Despite holding the Gunners to a 1-1 draw at Highbury and probably starting the Upton Park replay as favourites, the Hammers lost 2-1.
Background to their Testimonial Game
With their professional playing careers over the West Ham board considered how best to help the two young players. The board decided to do more than make insurance or ex gratia payments and settled for a testimonial game. This turned out to be the first testimonial game granted to West Ham players. Though six years earlier, manager Charles Paynter had been the recipient of the very first Upton Park testimonial game.
The Board minutes reveal that Manager Ted Fenton was unsuccessful in his efforts to lure First Division sides Newcastle United or Wolverhampton Wanderers as the opposition, and that he was hoping to get an All Stars XI chosen primarily from London Clubs.
The match arrangements included providing the All Star opposition with £178,000 insurance against injury. Fortunately there was no need to submit any insurance claims in what turned out to be an entertaining game for the 18,000 crowd. This attendance compared favourably with the average home attendance of 18,600 for that season’s league games.
West Ham 3-3 An Invited All Star XI Monday October 22, 1956
The testimonial match was notable for the senior debut of a West Ham youth player and the quality players in the opposing All Stars XI. The match report described the opposition as “the cream of England’s football – the programme read like a “Who’s Who” of the game” as many of the game’s big names turned out for the invitational XI. This included Jimmy Scoular, Cliff Holton, Roy Paul and Trevor Ford. Also in the side were a couple of ex-Hammers, Harry Hooper and Eric Parsons, and Hammer to be, Vic Keeble. There may not have been points or another cup round at stake, but the Hammers fielded a very strong XI. Nine of the West Ham team had played in the Division Two fixture against Bristol Rovers (October 20) two days earlier.
Despite the impressive opposition it was a 17 year old youth team player, George Fenn, who turned in the star performance. On his senior debut George scored the last two of West Ham’s three goals. His first in the 36th minute gave West Ham a 2-1 lead and his second in the 67th minute again give the Hammers the lead. Second Division West Ham’s first goal was a 19th minute equaliser by John Dick.
All three of the All Star XI’s goals came from players with a West Ham connection. John Dick’s future strike partner, Vic Keeble (Newcastle), scored the game’s first after 12 minutes, Harry Hooper (Wolverhampton Wanderers) scored in the 46th minute and Eric Parsons (Chelsea) score an equaliser with 12 minutes to go.
Testimonial Match: The Finances
Comments on the testimonial game did not finish with the game as there was a dispute over the payment to be made to Brian Moore. This dispute was reported as leaving a sour taste in Moore’s case, and understandably so.
The games finances were calculated to provide each player with £991 11s 3d from gate receipts and £15 0s 3d from donations. Geoff Hallas received his cheque with no problems. But Brian Moore ran into problems because he had subsequently registered as a player with Cambridge United and had played for them. We are not privy to the full details of the club’s dispute with Moore, but on reflection it may have been that West Ham was not comfortable with a “retired” player receiving testimonial money when he had not totally retired from playing football. The dispute resulted in Moore receiving £500 of his testimonial money as an ex gratia payment and the balance withheld by the club. This balance was eventually placed in a separate club fund and later dispersed amongst other former players who had hit on hard times.
Support from WHU and Warminster Town
In addition to the help provided by the West Ham board in granting the testimonial game, Geoff received support from the supporters of both West Ham and his previous club, Warminster Town. In May 1956 it was reported in the Stratford Express that at the WHU Supporters Club dinner, the Warminster Town club’s chairman, Mr.Ewins, presented Geoff with a cheque for £25. The West Ham Supporters club also presented Geoff with a gift of a cigarette case.
Employment with Green & Silley Weir
West Ham’s care of the players stretched to helping them find employment outside the game. In early August the Stratford Express reported that the club had “found jobs” for Hallas and Moore at local ship builders & dock repair company, Green & Silley Weir. Though in late December it was reported that the West Ham United Supporters Club presented Brian with a cheque for over £50 as due to the Suez crisis he had unfortunately lost his job at Green & Silley Weir. Geoff Hallas’ progress at Green & Silley Weir was not covered.
The Hallas and Moore testimonial match was the first such match granted by the West Ham board to either help or provide recognition of a player’s service. This started a steady flow of Upton Park testimonials over the next 50 years or so. 1955 may have been the only year of first team football for Geoff Hallas and Brian Moore but they were not forgotten as the club and its supporters provided financial assistance and help in finding alternative employment.
West Ham United:
Gregory, Bond, Cantwell, Parker, Allison, Lansdowne, Wragg, Smith, Fenn, Dick, Musgrove
Nethercott (Norwich City
Secular (Newcastle United)
Paul (Manchester City)
Hooper (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Ford (Cardiff City)
Keeble (Newcastle United)
Duquemin (Tottenham Hotspur)
Port Vale v. West Ham United 22nd August 1955
Back row: A. Malcolm, G. Wright, G. Taylor, L. Bennett, N. Cantwell, F. O’Farrell
Front row: R. Stroud, B. Moore, W. Dare, J. Dick, M. Musgrove, M. Allison
Extract: Minutes of Board Meeting held on Monday 1st October 1956
Date of Birth:
December 8, 1930
1 Essex Professional Cup
Date of Birth:
Belfast, Northern Ireland
December 29, 1933
1 Essex Professional Cup