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1940 FA League Cup

John Simkin

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When war broke out in 1939 the league season was cancelled as the UK expected to be bombed by the Germans. League games were cancelled but all teams played regional friendly games. West Ham players like Charlie Bicknell, Ted Fenton, Dick Walker, Sam Small, Archie Macaulay, Len Goulden and Stan Foxall, were all in good form. That season West Ham defeated Spurs all five times they played them. This included a 6-2 victory at White Hart Lane. West Ham also beat Chelsea in all four games, including a 10-3 result at Stamford Bridge. West Ham also beat Charlton 9-2.

It now became clear that Germany was unwilling to bomb the UK in the hope of negotiating a peace deal. Britain therefore entered what historians call the “phoney war”. It was too late to restart the league but it was possible to have the FA cup competition. In fact, it was thought that the competition would be good for public morale.

West Ham reproduced their good form in the cup and beat Chelsea, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, Birmingham and Fulham on their way to the final. However, by the time the final took place, the “phoney war” was over. Germany invaded France on the 10th May, 1940. However, even though British soldiers were fighting in France, it was decided that the final should take place on the arranged date of 8th June. Although they feared a bombing raid might take place, 42,399 spectators turned up at Wembley to see West Ham beat Blackburn 1-0.

The West Ham team that played Blackburn Rovers in the final was: Herman Conway, Charlie Bicknell, Charlie Walker, Ted Fenton, Dick Walker, Joe Cockcroft, Sam Small, Archie Macaulay, George Foreman, Len Goulden and Stan Foxall. These players had all played on regular basis for West Ham in the late 1930s. The only regular player who missed the final was Norman Corbett, who was at that time a corporal in the British Army. However, he was allowed to watch the game and took part in the victory celebrations. It was the last big game to be played until the end of the war in 1945.

A large number of players lost some of their best years to the war. This was especially true of West Ham and in my view they were robbed of having a successful league season in 1939-40. Giving the conditions that existed at the time, West Ham fully deserved to win the cup in 1940.

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