Harry Hooper 1933-2020
Everyone at West Ham United is saddened to learn of the death of our legendary former winger Harry Hooper, an original star of the 1950s Academy of Football.
Harry passed away peacefully on Wednesday at the age of 87, in Hunstanton, Norfolk, following a long and brave battle with Alzheimer’s.
Born on 14 June 1933 in Pittington, County Durham, he joined the Hammers at the age of 17 in November 1950, when his father Harry Sr – a former professional with Sheffield United and Hartlepool – was appointed Assistant Trainer at Upton Park by Ted Fenton.
Young Harry made his senior debut just three months later in a 4-2 Division Two win over Barnsley on 3 February 1951, and scored his first league goal for the Club the following month in a 1-1 draw with Swansea.
It was the first of 44 goals in 131 first team appearances over the course of the next five years – an impressive return for a left winger who became a huge favourite with the Hammers fans thanks to his electric pace, skill and eye for goal.
He netted two goals in a match on no fewer than four occasions, while his sole hat-trick in a Hammers shirt came in the 6-1 Division Two victory over Doncaster Rovers in October 1955. Along with the likes of Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, John Bond, Frank O’Farrell and John Dick, he became a key figure in the famed group of players who created the ‘Academy of Football’ vision that ultimately led to promotion to the top flight in 1958.
An England Under-23 and B international, he was also named on the standby list of players for the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland - an outstanding achievement for player with a Division Two club.
Harry also earned a reputation as a popular and likeable character off the field, whose commitment to the Club was never in doubt. On 5 March 1955, he played in a Division Two match against Leeds United – on the day of his wedding! He was made captain for the day and Ted Fenton’s men ran out 2-1 winners.
Harry made his final appearance for the Hammers in March 1956, scoring in a 3-2 win over Bury, before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers for £25,000 just a few days later. The funds were used by the Club to buy land from St Edward’s school adjacent to the Boleyn Ground, which later became the main car park at the stadium.
After one season at Molineux, Harry joined Birmingham City and spent three years at St Andrews, winning a runners-up medal in the 1960 European Fairs Cup, scoring a consolation goal in a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona in the final.
He later enjoyed spells with Sunderland, Kettering and Dunstable Town before hanging up his boots and working for an electronics firm in Bedford until his retirement. He moved to West Mersea in Essex, then to Hunstanton, where he was cared for in the final years of his life by his family and the wonderful staff at the Somerset Villa Care Home, who looked after him with such love and compassion.
Harry kept in touch with the Club and many of his old team-mates in his later years and, fittingly, made his last visit to Upton Park for the Farewell Boleyn match against Manchester United in May 2016.
The Club received the following message from Harry’s wife, Meg, yesterday, which we reproduce with her kind permission:
I would like to let you know that Harry greatly enjoyed his time at the club and held everyone there in high regard.
His last visit was on the final night at Upton Park (farewell to the Boleyn Ground).
I can tell you that his years at West Ham were the happiest and proudest of his career.
Our condolences and best wishes go to Meg, Harry’s brother Alf, his children Harry and Kay, grandchildren Sam, Joe, Tania and Lander, and the rest of his family and friends at this sad time.