John Charles

West Ham United are saddened to hear of the death of former player John Charles, who passed away on Saturday, August 17 after a long and brave battle against lung cancer.

John, who was just 57-years-old, made a total of 142 league and cup appearances for the Hammers during the 1960s, playing as a full-back alongside Bobby Moore on every occasion, and was a member of the squads that triumphed in the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup of 1964 and 1965.

As a young player, 'Charlo' as he was affectionately known, captained the 1963 FA Youth Cup winning side and won England youth honours before making his first team debut at Upton Park at the age of 19, against Blackburn Rovers in May 1963.

One of the first black players to break through into top flight professional football, John also had to live up to the Leeds United legend of the same name when making his introduction to the game!

A local lad who supported the Hammers as a boy from his Canning Town home, John was released by the club in 1971 at the age of 26. He declined the chance to join east London neighbours Orient, preferring instead to run his own greengrocery market stall, but was a regular visitor to the Boleyn Ground in recent years.

Former Hammers favourite Brian Dear, who first got to know Charlo when they were kids playing against each other for West Ham and East Ham schoolboys, was an extremely close friend of John's and was at his bedside when he passed away peacefully at 10.45pm at home in Barkingside on Saturday night.

Said Brian: "John was quite simply a lovely, lovely man who was West Ham United through and through. It is terribly sad news, but in a way it is a release, as he had fought such a painful battle against cancer.

"The last 18 months had been very hard for him, but he fought the disease so bravely and I am just glad he no longer has to suffer.

"I have known John for over 40 years, he was a wonderful friend and a very good footballer who was liked by everyone at the club. Being one of the first black players in football was never an issue for him, he was just one of the lads who loved playing for the club.

"He will be missed by everyone who knew him."

Tragically, John's younger brother Clive, who was also a talented left-back with the Hammers in the early 70s, is also suffering with cancer. However, the two enjoyed a moving reunion last week when Clive travelled from his home in the USA to spend some time with his brother.

Our sincere condolences go to John's wife, Carol, and his three children, sons Keith and Butch, and daughter Lesley.