“A pillar of the side at centre-half, a stopper who never gave in and a brilliant header of the ball. He had the most wonderful personality – he was a pleasing, friendly man who was always smiling, and I knew I could count on him.”
So said legendary West Ham United manager Ron Greenwood when referring to Ken Brown in his autobiography, Yours Sincerely.
In a record-breaking era that saw the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Byrne and John Bond star in the Claret and Blue, that is quite a compliment.
Yet it is nothing less than fully deserved by a man who will forever hold the unique honour of being the only Hammer to have played in the 1957/58 Second Division title-winning campaign, the 1964 FA Cup final victory and the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph – the three momentous achievements that put West Ham United on the map and earned the Club global recognition during that golden period.
A pillar of the side at centre-half, a stopper who never gave in and a brilliant header of the ball
Born on 16 February 1934, just around the corner from the Boleyn Ground in Forest Gate, Ken was playing amateur football for local Dagenham side Neville United when Hammers boss Ted Fenton signed him on professional forms at the age of 17 in October 1951.
National Service slowed his early progress but Ken was handed a senior debut a week after his 19th birthday in February 1953, in a 1-1 draw at Rotherham United, and made a handful of appearances during the next three seasons before establishing himself as the Club’s first-choice centre-half in the memorable 1957/58 campaign.
The record books show that Ken played in 41 of the 42 Second Division games as Fenton’s team, led by the goalscoring power of John Dick and Vic Keeble, surged to the title and brought top-flight league football back to Upton Park for the first time in 26 years.
Just months later, Brown lined up in a First Division match against Manchester United alongside a 17-year-old Bobby Moore – marking the start of a defensive partnership that would become the rock upon which the Club’s success of the 1960s was built.
Winner of the Hammer of the Year award at the end of that 1958/59 season, Brown won a solitary full England cap in a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland in November 1959, but the best was still to come as the dawn of a new decade and the arrival of Ron Greenwood saw him establish the connection with Moore that led to the double Wembley triumph in 1964 and 1965.
In May 1967, after making his 474th and final senior appearance for the Hammers a few months earlier, he was awarded a Testimonial – in which a newly-signed Billy Bonds made his first appearance – before joining old friend John Bond at Torquay United in a £4,000 deal.
The Brown association at West Ham continued in the early 1990s when Ken’s son Kenny signed from Plymouth Argyle and became a firm favourite, following in his Dad’s footsteps by enjoying a promotion-winning campaign in 1992/93.
This evening, Ken becomes the sixth Hammer to be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, following in the footsteps of his former team-mates Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, and Sir Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds.
*You can follow live coverage of the 2017/18 Player Awards, brought to you by Betway in aid of the Academy, on whufc.com and across the Club's social media channels this evening.