Gainsborough goal-getter: The story of West Ham United forward Stan Foxall

Stan Foxall


On Saturday, Gainsborough Trinity were beaten 4-3 at Basford United in front of 293 fans.

That result was the Lincolnshire club’s sixth defeat in ten Northern Premier League matches this season and dropped them to 17th in the table.

Trinity may now be competing in the seventh tier of English football, but there was a time when the non-league club was synonymous with producing future First Division stars.

West Ham United were among the teams to take advantage of Gainsborough’s uncanny knack of developing top-class talent.

In 1931, Hammers manager Syd King moved for 17-year-old Jackie Morton, signing the forward for a £600 fee. He would go on to play 275 times in Claret and Blue over eight seasons leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War, scoring 57 goals.

Three years after Morton’s arrival, King’s successor Charlie Paynter returned to The Northolme – Gainsborough’s home stadium since 1884 – to secure the services of another talented front man.

Joseph Stanley Foxall had been born on 8 October 1914 in the village of Crowle, 20 miles north of Gainsborough.

Like Morton before him, ‘Stan’ broke into the Gainsborough first team as a teenager, playing regularly for three seasons between the ages of 16 and 19 before joining West Ham.

The young Foxall initially found it difficult to dislodge Morton and England internationals Vic Watson and Jimmy Ruffell from the team, despite scoring twice on just his third appearance – a dramatic 5-4 Second Division defeat at Swansea Town in March 1935.


West Ham United's team photo for the 1937/38 season


Foxall’s breakthrough came in the late autumn of 1936, when the struggling Hammers looked to the then 22-year-old for salvation.

He responded with ten goals in 25 Second Division appearances as the east Londoners rallied in the second half of the season to finish sixth. Tellingly, all ten of Foxall’s strikes came in West Ham victories.

After scoring ten goals again in 1937/38, the Lincolnshire lad hit his peak in the final season before the outbreak of war, scoring 19 times in 1938/39, including five in five FA Cup appearances.

Despite the suspension of the Football League, Foxall remained with West Ham, playing and scoring regularly in the war-time competitions.

Indeed, his goals against Leicester City, Huddersfield Town and Fulham helped the Hammers reach the first Football League War Cup final, and he was part of the team which beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Wembley to win the trophy in June 1940.

In all, he had netted 105 goals in 262 appearances when a knee injury ended his full-time professional career in 1944, just a month short of his 30th birthday.

Foxall recovered sufficiently for him to join Colchester United in 1948, and he won the Southern League Cup there in 1950, before he finished his career with Chelmsford City.

He passed away in August 1991, aged 76.


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