#ThrowbackThursday - Liverpool v West Ham: Part One - 1901 to 1962

The first three meetings between these two sides took place in the FA Cup, the first of which came in January 1901 in the Intermediate Round.  The Hammers had only reformed from the remnants of the former Thames Ironworks FC just six months earlier and were managed by former Thames Ironworks player Syd King, who was still turned out as full back for the Hammers.  King remained Hammers manager until 1932.  West Ham at the time had been playing in the Southern League, while Liverpool stood in seventh place within the old First Division of the Football League.  The Merseysiders – formed just nine years prior - were managed by Tom Watson, who Liverpool poached from Sunderland where he won three titles during the 1890s.


The match took place at the Memorial Grounds – the Hammers’ old home, which stood adjacent to West Ham Rail station.  The station itself had been built with the agreement of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company to serve the ground on the request of Thames Ironworks Chairman and founder Arnold Hills (however the station wasn’t to be officially opened until a month after this game).  Thames Ironworks had been playing at the Memorial Grounds since 1897, the opening of which coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s Coronation.  The ground was considered big enough to host an FA Cup Final (though it never did) and like a mini-Olympic village also contained  a cycle track, a running track, tennis courts and one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in England.


The Hammers remained at the Memorial Grounds before moving to the Boleyn Ground in 1904, as the Upton Park area was then considered more salubrious, with the Hammers hoping to attract a better class of fan.  Just 6,000 turned out for the tie, which Liverpool won 1-0.  The Merseysiders however would be knocked out of the tournament in the next round.  They would however go on to win the first of their eighteen league titles that very same season, remaining unbeaten for the last twelve games with nine victories along the way and would go on to win another two titles over the next five seasons.  It would be another thirteen years before Liverpool and West Ham would meet again in the third round of the FA Cup at the Boleyn Ground.

West Ham were still in the Southern League, while Liverpool lay sixteenth in the old First Division.  The two sides would play out a 1-1 draw in front of 16,000 spectators.  The replay would be played out four days later at Anfield in front of a crowd of 45,000, where Liverpool hammered the East Londoners 5-1.  Liverpool made their way to the final this season (their very first), where they would meet Burnley at Crystal Palace but would lose 0-1 in front of 72,778 spectators.  The next meeting between Liverpool and West Ham would be their first league meeting in the interim between Christmas and New Year in December 1923.


Liverpool had won back to back League titles for the previous two seasons, while West Ham had been elected into the Football League when Football resumed after the First World War in 1919/20. In 1922/23, the Hammers were promoted as runners up in the Old Second Division and defeated in the final of the first FA Cup played at Wembley.  In 1923/24 however Liverpool made a poor attempt at retaining their title and stood eighteenth in the table mid-way through the season, having lost their previous five games.  West Ham, half way through their first season in the top flight stood in twelfth place.  Liverpool however bagged their first win for over two months with a 2-0 victory at Anfield.  Liverpool’s first League visit to the Boleyn Ground came just one week later in early January 1924.  The Hammers bagged their first victory over Liverpool with a 2-0 win.

West Ham failed to bag another victory over Liverpool for the next six games.  Ahead of Liverpool’s visit to the Boleyn Ground in May 1927, the Hammers were enjoying their best ever season in the top flight. West Ham reached as high as fourth in the table after a 3-1 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane on Good Friday, however suffered a run of three defeats out of four at the end of April, the last of which had been 3-6 defeat to Leeds United at Elland Road.  On the final day of the season, ninth placed Liverpool visited Upton Park.  The two sides played out a 3-3 draw in front of a crowd of 10,225, which secured a sixth place finish for West Ham.

In 1927/28, the Hammers bagged their first win over Liverpool for three years with a 3-1 win in Late September.  West Ham went on to secure their first league double over Liverpool and their first ever win at Anfield with a 3-1 in early February.  During the calendar year of 1930, West Ham managed to score an aggregate of eleven goals over Liverpool at the Boleyn Ground.  In January, after a run of five straight defeats the Hammers managed a 4-1 win over sixth placed Liverpool.  By the season’s close, West Ham had rose up for a seventh place finish where Liverpool sunk to twelfth after failing to win their last six games. 

Two games into the 1930/31 season, Liverpool’s poor form continued with their visit to Upton Park at the start of September.  The Hammers secured their biggest ever victory over Liverpool with a thumping 7-0 win, with four goals for England international Vic Watson.  1930/31 though would be an inconsistent season for the Hammers, losing 1-6 away to Aston Villa the following week.  By mid-December, West Ham were sitting third in the table.  Thereafter however, the Hammers won just three games for the rest of the term.  By the time of their visit to Anfield on the final day of the season, the Hammers had lost sixteen games out of twenty three.  West Ham’s misery continued with a 0-2 defeat to Liverpool, suffering an eighteenth position finish as a result.

The Hammers’ poor form continued into the 1931/32 season and by the time of West Ham’s return to Anfield in early October, they had won just three of their first nine games, having lost six of their last seven games.  The two sides played out a 2-2 draw.  When Liverpool visited the Boleyn Ground the following February, the Hammers had a six point cushion from the relegation zone, under a two points for a win system.  A 1-0 win for the Hammers strengthened their position further by increasing the cushion to eight points, pushing West Ham up to seventeenth place.  The Hammers however would win just one further game all season.

After defeating Derby County in mid-March 1932, West Ham sat in fourteenth place.  There followed however a run of eight defeats out of nine games, disrupted only by a 1-1 draw with Double chasing Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground on Easter Saturday.  On the final day of the season, West Ham stood second from bottom of the table and beneath Blackpool by 0.03 of a goal, needing victory against London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to give themselves a chance of survival.  The Hammers’ crashed to a 2-3 defeat, while Blackpool defeated Sheffield United 3-1 away which condemned the East end side to relegation.  A 3-1 win for Grimsby compounded matters further, leaving West Ham rock bottom of the old First Division.  

It would be another twenty six years before West Ham would return to the top flight, however fixtures with Liverpool would resume when the Merseysiders would suffer their first relegation for forty nine years, after finishing rock bottom of the top flight at the end of 1953/54.  The first meeting between the two sides for twenty two years occurred in early September 1954 at Anfield.  Both sides had a poor start to the season, both languishing in the bottom half of the second tier with one victory from their first four games.  West Ham left Merseyside with a 2-1 victory, on the scoresheet for the Hammers would be future Arsenal coach and Chelsea, QPR and Man United manager Dave Sexton.

For Liverpool, this defeat would be part of a run of five defeats out of six which left the Reds sitting in twentieth position after seven games.  Their lowest ebb that season would be a 1-9 thrashing away to Birmingham City in early December.  By the start of April 1955, West Ham were pushing for promotion after six straight wins left the Hammers two points off of the top of the table with two games in hand.  By the time of Liverpool’s visit to the Boleyn Ground, the East end side slipped to seventh after picking up just one point from a possible eight.  The Hammers misery continued after Liverpool inflicted a 0-3 defeat in front of just 9,448 fans. 


The Hammers would eventually finish the season in eighth position.  It was to be Liverpool’s last victory of the season.  On the final day, Liverpool would suffer a 1-6 away thrashing to promotion chasing Rotherham United which would leave the Reds sitting in eleventh position in the second tier – making 1954/55 their lowest ever finish to a League season.  The following October, West Ham and Liverpool sat twelfth and thirteenth in the old Second Division respectively, when the Hammers came to Anfield.  The Reds picked up both points with a 3-1 win.  By February 1956, West Ham sunk to nineteenth, while Liverpool climbed up to eighth ahead of their visit to Upton Park.  Two own goals however gave West Ham a 2-0 win.


Within a month, Liverpool had risen up to third and were three points off of leaders Sheffield Wednesday with a game in hand.  By the close of 1955/56 however, Liverpool finished third and four points off of runners up Leeds United who, inspired by Welsh star John Charles, climbed above them on the back of six straight victories.  Failure to secure promotion meant that Don Welsh became the first Liverpool manager to face the sack.  He would be replaced by long serving wing-half Phil Taylor as boss.  West Ham meanwhile finished in nineteenth place.  Six games into the 1956/57 season, the two sides met again.  West Ham stood fourth with three wins out of five, while Liverpool were two places beneath them in sixth, with two wins and two draws.  The two sides played out a 1-1 draw with future Man United boss Frank O’Farrell on target for the Hammers.


The two sides next met at Anfield on the final Saturday of the 1956/57 season, with Liverpool three points off of a promotion place in fourth, while the Hammers could reach no higher than fifth.  A penalty for Billy Liddle gave the Reds a 1-0 win, however a 4-0 win for Nottingham Forest away at Sheffield United secured promotion for the East Midlanders, which meant another season in the second tier for Liverpool.  The following December, West Ham returned to Anfield sitting in fourth place and four points off of the league leaders Liverpool.  Goals for Frank O’Farrell for the Hammers and Billy Liddle for the Merseysiders meant a 1-1 draw.

By the time of the return fixture at the Boleyn Ground in late April 1958, with just two games left to play West Ham would top the table, while Liverpool stood just two points off in third place.  In what would be a promotion head to head, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw with future Norwich City and Man City boss John Bond on target for the Hammers, while Billy Liddle would bag another for the Reds.  As the final Saturday would also see the second and third place sides – Charlton and Blackburn Rovers – playing each other on the last day, this draw meant that West Ham could fall no lower than second and so secured their passage back to top flight football for the first time in just over a quarter of a century.  For Liverpool however, the chances of overhauling their rivals was a mathematical impossibility and so were consigned to another season outside of the top tier.

On the final Saturday, a 1-3 away win at Middlesbrough meant that the Hammers were crowned champions of the old Second Division.  The other promotion place was sealed that same afternoon at the Valley.  Charlton found themselves 1-4 down at half time.  Four months prior, Charlton came from 1-5 down to Bill Shankly’s Huddersfield Town with twenty seven minutes to go, to win 7-6.  The South East London side pulled back two further goals but a 3-4 defeat meant that Blackburn and not Charlton would join their London rivals West Ham in the top flight for the 1958/59 season.  West Ham’s promotion meant that for the only time in their history, the Hammers would be playing a higher level of football than Liverpool.

Liverpool boss Phil Taylor would last a further eighteen months in the role.  Liverpool would finish fourth in 1958/59, but a good seven points off of a promotion place.  After a 2-4 away defeat to Lincoln the following November, Taylor resigned.  Taylor left a back room of Reuben Bennett, Joe Fagan and Bob Paisley – the foundations of ‘boot room’ that would serve the club well for the next three decades – as well as a playing staff that would include future coach Ronnie Moran and a young forward in Roger Hunt, who would partner West Ham’s Geoff Hurst up front in England’s World Cup winning side seven years later.


The man who Liverpool replaced Taylor with fourteen days later had been in charge of a Huddersfield side that would hammer Liverpool in a 0-5 away defeat just six weeks prior with just ten men.  Shankly remarked on the game that: ‘I remember the Liverpool directors leaving the ground in single file with their shoulders slumped, like a funeral procession’.  The change in fortune for Liverpool would not be quite so immediate, though the Reds would finish 1959/60 in third place but eight points off of a promotion place.  In Shanks’s first full season they would finish third again, though this time six points off the runners up spot.


Liverpool finally secured their path back to the top tier after an eight year absence in 1961/62 as champions of the Old Second Division, eight points clear of runners up Leyton Orient, by which point West Ham had been consolidating their place in the top tier for the previous five seasons.


As would be seen tomorrow, the sixties would be halcyon age for both Liverpool and West Ham – much of which would be captured for posterity by new highlights packages such as ‘Match of the Day’ on the BBC and ITV regional equivalents, such as LWT’s ‘The Big Match’ and Granada’s ‘Kick Off Match’.