Thursday 15 Oct
Updated Thursday 15 Oct 09:00
History

Ken Brown - The modest man who became a West Ham United legend

Ken Brown

 

A truly unique figure in West Ham United history joined the Club from non-league Neville United on this day in 1951 - Ken Brown

 

Born on 16 February 1934, Ken Brown Senior is the only player in West Ham United's history to be part of the teams that won the 1958 Second Division championship, the 1964 FA Cup and 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Brown, who played 474 times in Claret and Blue between February 1953 and February 1967, was crowned Hammer of the Year and capped by England in 1959, personified the transformation of West Ham from also-rans to one of the finest teams in the country.

A tough centre-half on the field and a true gentleman off it, Brown mentored dozens of future first-team stars through the Academy of Football and partnered the 17-year-old Bobby Moore on his debut in September 1958.

A young Ken BrownHe was rewarded for an outstanding career with a Testimonial match in May 1967, when he captained a Select XI including the late Gordon Banks and his fellow 1964 FA Cup winners John Bond and Johnny Byrne against a West Ham side captained by his long-time friend and teammate Moore.

In May 2018, he was honoured by the Club's Lifetime Achievement Award, emulating teammates Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and continuing a relationship with the Hammers dating back nearly 70 years.

“I was brought up at West Ham and had the best years of my life at the Club,” said Brown. “I used to come into the Boleyn Ground in the early days with a fella called Dick Walker who taught me how to approach football and I have never forgotten that.

“There have been lots of other people at the Club who have all made me feel welcome and always wanted me to do well.

“I didn't expect to be named Hammer of the Year but when I look back now it is something that I fully appreciate. No matter what anyone says no-one will ever take my memories away from this place.

“From day one it was such a pleasure to play with all my old team-mates. Dick Walker encouraged me how to behave as a footballer and everyone loved him. I would always try to live in his footsteps.

“Bobby Moore was different class. He was two or three steps ahead of anyone he played against and he was an incredible player. It was a privilege to play next to him. He certainly made my life a lot easier!"

Born in Forest Gate, played for Dagenham-based Neville United before Brown was given his big chance by West Ham in 1951, when he signed from Dagenham-based club Neville United at the age of 17.

Two years later, between two stints of National Service, Brown was given his first-team debut by Ted Fenton in a 1-1 Second Division draw with Rotherham United in February 1953.

Five years later, he partnered Moore on his own debut against Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground, before going on to enjoy great success under Fenton’s successor Ron Greenwood.

Ken BrownBrown played all seven ties as the Hammers won the FA Cup for the first time in 1964, and all nine as Greenwood led them to European Cup Winners’ Cup glory at Wembley a year later.

Despite those outstanding achievements, the modest defender never felt he was a good enough to satisfy his visionary manager.

“The wonderful managers including Ron Greenwood who was fantastic for me and put so many ideas into our heads," Brown recalled.

“I sometimes thought that I wasn't good enough to play under Ron because he had so many brainwaves of perfection that I could never live up to that, but I had so many magical memories!”

Brown ended his time as a professional player alongside Bond at Torquay United before embarking on his own successful managerial career, leading Norwich City to League Cup glory in 1985 and a then-record high league finish of fifth a year later.

Son Kenny played under his father at Carrow Road before moving to West Ham himself in 1991, spending five years at the Club.

The elder Brown also managed Shrewsbury Town and Plymouth Argyle and scouted for England managers Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan.

Now 86, he is happily retired and living with wife Elaine in Norfolk.

 

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