We All Follow The West Ham!

  • Extended family of former player Norman Corbett and Junior Hammers founder Bill Elliott MBE visit Boleyn Ground
  • Corbett won the War Cup in 1940, made 306 appearances and was known as the 'Throw-in King'
  • Elliott introduced thousands of local youngsters to sport, including future Hammers players
West Ham TV meets the family of two important figures in the history of the Hammers.

Norman Corbett was part of the squad which won the Football League War Cup in 1940, played more than 300 games in Claret and Blue and became known as the 'Throw-in King' for his ability to hurl the ball long distances!

Norman’s daughter Ann Wheal has fond memories of her Dad, both as a footballer and as a father. As you can see, football has changed somewhat since Norman’s days!

“Dad always had three pairs of boots on the go, made from very thick solid leather in a light tan colour,” she recalled.

“One pair had no studs in and dad used to sit on the edge of the bath wearing them with his feet and boots in hot water – the idea being to soften the boots and mould them to his feet. He did this quite a few times before he was satisfied they were ‘ready’.

“He then dried them and put large leather studs into the boots in our shed. Each stud had three nails to keep them in place. He wore the boots round the garden and then for training.

“The third pair were worn to play matches.”

A famous image of Norman showed him celebrating with his squad-mates after arriving at Wembley mid-way through the 1940 Football League War Cup final.

He had been on duty in the Army and turned up in his fatigues. Of course, there were no substitutes in those days, but that did not preclude him from joining the team on the pitch and getting his hands on the trophy he had helped the Hammers to win.

Nine years later, his propensity for throwing the heavy leather football long distances into the opposition penalty area saw him feature in an FA coaching manual alongside the likes of Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and goalkeeper Harry Gregg.

Among the other stories Ann shared about her father were two which will raise eyebrows among modern West Ham fans.

The first showed how hard footballers had to work to make ends meet before the introduction of a minimum wage in 1961.

“Dad was one of the founders of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and was involved in introducing a minimum wage for footballers of £15 per week, all year round,” she recalled. “Before that, during the off-season he had to do odd jobs to support his family, for which he was ill-prepared having only ever played football.”

The second showed how important Norman considered his role as a footballer for West Ham United.

?“My parents’ wedding was brought forward by four hours to enable Dad to play for West Ham at 3pm!” she revealed.
Bill Elliott set up and ran the Junior Hammers club and introduced thousands of Newham youngsters to sport, including future West Ham first-team players Brian Dear, Roger Cross and Alan Curbishley.

He was made an MBE in 1999 for services to the community, especially young people's sport, in East Ham.

Bill's daughter Sue Thomas, who was joined at the Boleyn Ground by sister Barbara Frost and younger members of the family, was happy to share memories of her late father.

"I can't remember exactly when the Junior Hammers started, but before that Dad was involved in training young players who eventually played for West Ham, including Alan Curbishley, Roger Cross and Brian Dear.

"I think he got together with Eddie Chapman and he co-founded the Junior Hammers and worked on it. Eddie became the president and Bill was the organiser and he signed up his own grandchildren.

"It was just football, as he also encouraged them to raise money for charity, so there was a real commuity aspect to it and there were Junior Hammers from all over the country."

The extended family of both men, including sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, visited the Boleyn Ground to bid a fond and emotional farewell to the stadium Norman and Bill called home.

The pair's influential role in West Ham's history will be remembered forever in the shape of commemorative stones to be laid at Champions Place on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.