Football League War Cup semi-final

On This Day: West Ham United win through to Football League War Cup final

June football is usually reserved for internationals, but West Ham United have also competed during the sixth month of the year.

The most recent occasion was 2020, when the Premier League returned after a three-month break at the start of the COVID pandemic, and the Hammers took on Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at the end of June, before finishing the season and securing safety in July.

Eighty years earlier, in June 1940, in the early stages of the Second World War, and the Hammers were into the last four of the inaugural Football League War Cup – a national knockout competition introduced to replace the suspended FA Cup.

Len Goulden
Len Goulden was among the scorers

The Irons, who were also in action in the regional War League South, had defeated Chelsea, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town and Birmingham to set up a semi-final meeting with Fulham.

The game would be played at a neutral venue, Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, with a place in the final at Wembley against Blackburn Rovers at stake. The venue was originally scheduled to be decided by the toss of the coin with the winners hosting the match, but both clubs preferred the option of a neutral ground.

Despite the threat of an air raid by the German Luftwaffe, the game went ahead as planned, with kick-off scheduled for 6.40pm to enable Saturday afternoon war workers to attend the match.

West Ham and Fulham had both kicked off the 1939/40 season in the Football League Second Division, before joining War League South in October 1939.

West Ham War Cup semi-final ProgrammeThere, Charlie Paynter’s side had thumped the Whites 5-0 at the Boleyn Ground on 9 March 1940, with his successor Ted Fenton among the scorers, with Alec George Foreman and Joseph Stanley Foxall each netting two goals.

The return fixture was played at Craven Cottage just five days before the War Cup semi-final, with Fulham running out 2-1 winners.

One win apiece and all to play for at Stamford Bridge, then.

Such was the interest the semi-final that the gates were closed ten minutes prior to kick-off as the restricted crowd capacity had been reached.

The 32,799 crowd cheered the teams onto the pitch and then fell silent as the national anthem was played.

When the game got underway, West Ham were in inspired form, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead through goals from Foxall, Len Goulden and Sam Small.

An own-goal made it 4-0 on 65 minutes, but Fulham were not done, scoring three goals in the next nine minutes to set nerves jangling in the Claret and Blue ranks.

Paynter’s side clung on, though and secured a narrow victory that secured just their second visit to Wembley Stadium a week later.


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