theyflysohigh : Steve Marsh

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Banner Hammers Logo theyflysohigh Fixture Table Dukla Pennant ISL Play-off Winners v. Gornik ISL - Dukla 2 WHU v. Recife WHU v. Kilmarnock ISL 63_06_16 Preussen-Munster v. WHU

1963 American International Soccer League ...

For most clubs an end of season summer tour overseas would be a well earned and relaxing way to unwind after a long English football league season. But not for West Ham United in 1963.

The Hammers’ visit to the USA in June and July of that year turned out to be a catalyst in the club’s fortunes and by the end of the tour they had exceeded all expectations.

by Roger Hillier

The club accepted an invitation to cross the Atlantic to participate in the American International Soccer League (ISL) which featured guest teams primarily from Europe but also included some from Asia, South America, Canada and Mexico.


The Hammers topped their group of seven to qualify for and win the Championship play-off. As victors of the ISL they were eligible to compete for the American Challenge Cup where they narrowly lost the final to a world class side.


To top the club’s performances, the sports writers balloted Bobby Moore as their winner of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Trophy for the “Most Valuable Player” in the ISL.  A fantastic time for the club’s staff and fans!


These experiences helped to trigger the beginning of arguably the most successful period in West Ham’s history. This golden era when the club became a formidable force in Cup competitions evidenced with triumphs in the 1964 FA Cup and 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup. Supported by a final and semi-final appearance in 1966’s, 1964’s and 1967’s Football League Cup and a semi-final place in 1966’s European Cup Winners Cup.  

International Soccer League

The tournament was created in 1960 by William Cox, a wealthy U.S. businessman and former owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, a U.S. baseball team. Cox saw a potential market in the United States for top level soccer and paved the way as a first modern attempt to create a major soccer league in the U.S. during the American off-season.


The competition format consisted of two Sections (Section I and Section II). The clubs in each section  played each other on round-robin, accumulating points on a league-wide system (2 points for a win and one for a draw). Each section’s winners would go forward to play a two-legged Championship match to decide the league’s winners.


West Ham were in Section 1 alongside Kilmarnock (Scotland), Mantova (Italy), Deportivo Oro (Mexico), Valenciennes (France), Preussen Munster (West Germany) and S.C. Recife (Brazil).

West Ham’s preparations for the ISL were not helped by the 1963 winter “Big Freeze”, which brought a three week extension to the Football League season, and the absence of Bobby Moore and Johnny Byrne for the first two games. Moore and Byrne were away on international duty with England touring Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Switzerland.  


So it wasn’t a surprise when the Hammers made a slow start to the tournament. After their first two games, a draw with Kilmarnock (3-3) at Randalls Island Stadium in New York and a defeat to Italian side Mantova (2-4) at Soldier Field Stadium in Chicago, the Hammers languished at the bottom of their Section and were facing an early exit from the competition.


63_06_02 Kilmarnock v. WHU ISL America 63_06_05 Mantova v. WHU ISL America Ken Brown Captain v Kilmarnock

The arrival of Moore and Byrne ensured the Hammers would soon be blowing bubbles. In their very next match West Ham started a three game winning streak with a 3-1 win over Deportivo Oro (Mexico) 3-1. Byrne contributed a penalty. This victory was soon followed by wins over Valenciennes and Preussen Munster, and finally a draw with S.C. Recife in a bad tempered game. The draw ensured West Ham topped their section to qualify for the Championship Play-off.

After the conclusion of the Recife match which incidentally kicked-off at midnight due to New York’s extreme daytime temperatures, the Hammers' party flew home for a well earned summer break.

Ken Brown deputises as captain in Moore's absence for the Kilmarnock game

Image courtesy of Ken Brown

West Ham’s Slow Start

Arrival of Moore & Byrne

1963 Deportivo Oro (Mexico) Pennant 1963 SC Recife Pennant No1 Section One Standings

Section I Standings

Return to the USA

Section I Fixtures

Moore & Dukla Prague WHU v. Valencienne

West Ham United line-up against Górnik Zabrze in the 2nd leg

West Ham United line-up against SC Recife (Brazil)

The players and officials returned to the United States on July 29th for the two-legged Championship play-off against Section II winners, Klub Sportowy Górnik Zabrze (Poland). The West Ham touring party included a few changes, in came Eddie Bovington and Brian Rhodes as Dave Bickles, Lawrie Leslie and Johnny Sissons were left behind. Also joining the party were the wives and girl friends for the extra two weeks.

All Aboard fot the USA All Aboard fot the USA 02

Under the floodlights on the Wednesday the Hammers were held to a 1-1 draw after taking a 21st minute when Peter Brabrook passed to Geoff Hurst whose shot was diverted to Johnny Byrne who hit the ball with his left foot into the corner of the net.

The effects of a tiring journey across the Atlantic began to takes its toll and the Poles equalised after a defensive error.

1st leg:

Górnik Zabrze 1-1 West Ham United (HT 0-1)

Randalls Island Stadium, New York

Wednesday July 31, 1963












63_07_31 WHU v. Gornik 1st Crossed Hammer

2nd leg:

Górnik Zabrze 0-1 West Ham United (HT 0-1)

Randalls Island Stadium, New York

Sunday August 4, 1963







Sealey (Bovington)





63_07_31 WHU v. Gornik 2nd

The game’s only goal came in the 41st minute when a long clearance by Jim Standen was bought under control by Byrne who passed to Hurst, who then rounded one player before netting his 9th goal of the tour.

Soon after the goal crowd trouble erupted. Górnik had two goals disallowed for offside which disappointed some Polish supporters who invaded the pitch and attacked referee Jim McLean. Despite appeals from Górnik’s club president to the Polish fans to restore order the game was held up for half an hour during which time the players left the pitch. After being attacked by the Polish fans the referee was unable to continue and he had to be replaced by linesman Aldo Clemente for the game’s remaining 18 minutes.

Fortunately the Hammers were able to hold onto their slender lead and win the play-off 2-1 on aggregate.

WHU v. Gornik 2nd leg

Captains Bobby Moore and Stanislaw Oslizlo shake hands

Referee Jim McLean, linesmen Aldo Clemente and Howard Levine

Crossed Hammer

The American Challenge Cup

Three months after the 1963 American Challenge Cup final Masopust and fellow wing half Svatopluk Pluskal played for the FIFA (World) Team against England at Wembley to commemorate 100 years of the Football Association. Neutral commentators considered Dukla Prague to be among the best ten teams in the world at the time.


Considering the Hammers were facing one of the world’s and certainly one of Europe’s best teams, they acquitted themselves very well in this two legged cup. An account of the US tournament in West Ham’s first home programme of 1963-64 season reported “we faced a really tough task in these two games. Nevertheless, at the end we could claim that we had as good a share of the play, and that the 2-1 aggregate against us could well have been reversed.”

Victory in the ISL Play-off qualified West Ham for the final of the American Challenge Cup against Dukla Prague. Dukla had won the two previous cup finals by beating Everton 7-2 in 1961, and America FC (Brazil) 3-2 on aggregate in 1962.


Dukla Prague were a formidable team in those days, six members of their team were included in the previous year’s Czechoslovakia side which lost 3-1 to Brazil in the 1962 World Cup final. Dukla’s captain, Josef Masopust opened the scoring for the Czechs against the Brazilians with a goal after 15 minutes.

1963 World Team 1961 Dukla

Dukla Prague 1961 ISL Winners

Dukla Prague players Svatopluk Pluskal and Josep Masopust in the World Team that faced England at Wembley Stadium

1st leg: (Floodlit)

Dukla Prague 1-0 West Ham United (HT 1-0)

Soldiers Field, Chicago

Wednesday August 7, 1963

Dukla Prague team for both legs:

Kouba, Safranek, Cadek, Novak, Pluskal, Masopust, Brumovsky, Vacenovsky, Knebort, Kucera, Jelinek.

2nd leg:

Dukla Prague 1-1 West Ham United (HT 0-1)

Randalls Island Stadium, New York

Sunday August 11, 1963










Hurst (Sealey)


West Ham United team:

Standen, Kirkup, Burkett, Peters, Brown, Moore, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Hurst, Scott


SLUG Memorabilia Section One winners Players in Central Park

Ron Greenwood snaps the team in Central Park against

New York’s backcloth of skyscrapers


American Challenge Cup Final

63_08_07 Dukla v. WHU 1st leg 63_08_11 Dulka v. WHU 2nd leg

The only goal of the game, a close range shot, arrived in the 31st minute. An injured Geoff Hurst was substituted by Alan Sealey in the second half. Thereafter the game was a very even affair. The Czech goalkeeper made fine second half saves from Hurst, Byrne and Scott.

Although the Hammers were invited back to play in the 1965 International Soccer League and four years later in the North American Soccer League's International Cup tournament, the lack of star players and low attendances ultimately led to the demise of both league's. The push was now on to develop a viable and truly top-level league in the U.S. Today we know it as the MLS (Major League Soccer).

Ready for 1963-64’s FA Cup Campaign

The following extract is Jack Burkett’s reflections on the 2nd leg from 51 years ago.

Source "Ex" The West Ham Retro Magazine by kind permission.

Quote Quote

Another blistering hot day in New York and Peter Brabrook delighted the crowd with a series of mazy runs that tormented the Dukla defence. Hurst and Boyce both went close and Moore thundered a 30 yarder just over the before Tony Scott volleyed home (a Joe Kirkup cross) late in the first half to level the scores on aggregate


“However, Dukla’s superb technical ability was beginning to tell and Josef Masopust - a class act in every department of the game – had the final word. With 20 minutes to go, the Czech captain played a neat one two and fired the ball past Jim Standen for the winner. It was over and the Hammers were beaten, but far from disgraced.


“Masopust was presented with the trophy and was magnanimous in victory saying “West Ham will be a top grade side in two years.

Who would have thought that the catalyst for the 1960s cup successes would have been ignited the other side of the 'big pond' in New York, Chicago and Detroit.


Jack Burkett’s reflections on that wonderful summer success finished with “What made it a special time was that most of the squad had all come up through the ranks together. We were all friends – even the wives and girl friends got on great. I know it is a cliche, but we were literally like a family. I don’t think you get that amongst the modern day players.”

International Soccer League

West Ham United's Fixtures

& Line-ups

ISL - Kilmarnock ISL - Mantova ISL - Oro ISL - Valenciennes ISL - Munster ISL - Receife

KILMARNOCK : Randalls Island Stadium, New York


Soldier Field, Chicago


Randalls Island Stadium, New York


University of Detroit Stadium


Randalls Island Stadium, New York

Central Park 2 Greetings from NY ISL - Dukla 1

Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller, support material Steve Marsh

Section II Standings

Górnik Zabrze            

Dinamo Zagreb              

Wiener AC                  

Ujpest Dosza              


Real Valladolid              


West Ham squad and manager Ron Greenwood line up prior to first game v. Kilmarnock

Back row:  Lyall, Standen, Brown, Sealey, Leslie, Kirkup, Bickles, Sissons, Greenwood

Front row:  Burkett, Boyce, Peters, Hurst, Scott, Brabrook

Table Fixtures

Back row:  Kirkup, Peters, Brown, Sealey, Standen, Moore.

Front row:  Boyce, Byrne, Brabrook, Hurst, Burkett.

Captains Moore and Masopust exchange pennants

Gornik 2-1

Martin Peters challenges the Górnik 'keeper

West Ham United Section I Winners

International Soccer League Play-off

Logo_Gornik_Zabrze ISL Play-off Winners

Bobby Moore sips champagne from the ISL Play-off trophy

Gornik 2-2

Peter Brabrook watches a Górnik defender block this shot

from Martin Peters

Gornik 2-3

Ken Brown No5 heads clear from Górnik centre-forward Szoltysik


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