One of West Ham United’s all-time greats, Ken Brown, made his first of 474 senior appearances for the Club on this day 65 years ago.
Then just five days past his 19th birthday, Brown lined up at centre-half alongside the likes of goalkeeper Ernie Gregory, full-back John Bond, half-back Frank O’Farrell and winger Harry Hooper.
The Second Division fixture with Rotherham United ended in a 1-1 draw at Millmoor, where the teenage Brown made such a favourable impact on manager Ted Fenton that he remained in the starting XI for the next two games.
Brown helped the Hammers keep clean sheets in both, but Malcolm Allison’s return to the defence meant the youngster returned to the reserves for the remainder of the 1952/53 campaign and for much of the following three seasons.
The defender was 23 by the time that, in August 1957, his patience was rewarded and he finally became a regular in the team, a position he would retain for the next decade, winning promotion in 1958, the FA Cup in 1964 and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965.
Brown’s partnership with another east London-born half-back, Bobby Moore, was the foundation on which the Hammers’ success was built, and the former will emulate his long-time teammate by being presented with the Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award in April.
Amazingly, when you consider his success and longevity in a Claret and Blue shirt, Brown revealed in an interview with EX, the retro magazine for West Ham fans, that he never felt good enough to play in Ron Greenwood’s outstanding side of the 1960s.
“I was a bit of a rough and tumble man and I needed to make contact with the forward, then if I got the ball away I felt satisfied,” he recalled. “I always thought Ron wanted to be the perfectionist, so if I won the ball, it should always land at my teammate’s feet, not way up in the air!
“I never, ever thought I was the player I should have been for Ron Greenwood, because he used to sow seeds of how football should be played. He didn’t like contact football and was a perfectionist.
“Very rarely did he ever come up and say ‘Well played’ or anything like that. On occasions he did, but not very often. I always had the impression that I wasn’t good enough to play for Ron Greenwood, the way he wanted the side to play, but that may have been good, as a ‘red rag to a bull’ type of thing.
“I couldn’t attempt to pull the ball down and use it nicely, I had to get it out of harm’s way!”
On Wednesday 25 April, at The Intercontinental London, The O2, Ken Brown will be honoured by the Club when he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Player Awards brought to you by Betway in aid of the Academy, continuing a relationship with the Hammers dating back more than 65 years.