50 years since key promotion

This Saturday marks 50 years to the day that West Ham United memorably secured promotion back to the top flight for the first time in 26 years.

A 3-1 win at Middlesbrough on Saturday 26 April 1958 clinched the second division title and paved the way for the club's golden area of the mid-1960's under Ron Greenwood. That promotion also meant Bobby Moore's debut in September 1958 would come as a top-flight player and provide the young homegrown Hammer with a fitting stage for his talents.

Ken Brown was pivotal in that defining 1957/58 season. Although the young east Londoner had been around for several seasons, this campaign was to prove his breakthrough as he played 44 games and formed part of a resilient rearguard that also included Irish full-back Noel Cantwell, John Bond and Andy Malcolm. Further forward were the likes of Malcolm Musgrove, John Dick and the prolific Vic Keeble.

"It was such a great team," remembered Brown, now 74 and living in Norfolk. "I think it was my first full season in the team and we ended up getting promotion. I had had bits and pieces before that - Malcolm Allison was the centre-half, he had been in the army. He became ill and I got my opportunity. We had been waiting a long time to go up."

In that pivotal 26 April match half-a-century ago, Middlesbrough boasted a young centre forward by the name of Brian Clough, who had a fearsome strike-rate and would prove to be a future managerial foe for Brown as well. "He had a brilliant record," he said. "I can remember Noel Cantwell and John Bond were saying we have got to stop him. They told me 'he makes these great runs from crosses and you have got to be in front of him'. I can well remember that, he was a top player.

"He didn't talk as much during the game, not as much as he did when he finished playing. I had some memorable run-ins with him after that in the coaching and managerial stakes. I got the better of him that day though because he didn't score. There was a couple of Irish players with Middlesbrough and Noel said he would have a word with them about taking it easy as they had nothing to play for. He came back and said Cloughy went mad when he suggested they take it easy ...."

Brown admitted he does not remember much of the game itself, that saw Dick, Keeble and Musgrove all score in the first half to secure a 3-1 win but he can recall the celebrations. "I can remember we did go up on the train and coming back there were a load of supporters when we got back to the station," he said. "It was incredible, a real sight to see. It was a big deal and things seemed to just fall into place for the club after that. It is incredible."

A proud Hammer to this day, Brown keeps in touch with many of his former team-mates such as good friend Bond and Malcolm, "the best man-marker you could come up against and a very underestimated player". Of striker Keeble, who arrived from Newcastle United and galvanised the forward line, Brown added: "Vic was brilliant. When Ted Fenton brought him in, him and Jacky Dick hit it off as if they had been playing all their lives together. It was a great team all the way through."