Gerry Gazzard: The Pirate of Penzance West Ham United signed for £100!
West Ham United’s ‘Pirate of Penzance’ Gerry Gazzard sailed into east London on this day in 1949.
An inside forward, Gazzard had made his name playing as an amateur for Cornwall club Penzance FC in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship, an annual regional competition for county representative sides that ran between 1906-74.
Gazzard starred in his 20 appearances for Cornwall in the tournament, attracting the attention of a host of professional clubs, the Hammers among them.
The 24-year-old, who had moved to the South West from his boyhood home in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, agreed to join the Irons, with the Club making a £100 donation to Penzance FC to secure his signature. Gazzard signed professional forms for manager Charlie Paynter on 12 May 1949.
Affectionately and predictably known as the ‘Pirate of Penzance’, Gazzard made his West Ham debut against Luton Town on the opening day of the 1949/50 Second Division season at Kenilworth Road in a 2-2 draw on 20 August 1949.
His first goal arrived a week later in a 2-1 home win over Barnsley that lifted the Hammers to third in the table, but his time in Claret and Blue never saw West Ham launch a serious and sustained bid for promotion.
Regardless, he was a well-built player with a strong and accurate shot. Gazzard made 38 appearances in his first season and was one game short of being an ever-present the following campaign, 1950/51, scoring 13 Second Division goals.
He was also a member of the side that beat Southend United 2-0 to win the 1951 Essex Professional Cup, having scored two goals in the 6-1 semi-final replay victory over Leyton Orient.
In four seasons at the Boleyn Ground, he made a total of 133 appearances in which he scored 35 goals, the last of which came in a 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers in his final game for the Club in October 1953.
A cartilage injury and the arrival of John Dick from Crittall Athletic in June of the same year restricted his chances for first team football at the Boleyn Ground going forward, and he moved on to Brentford in January 1954.
After a shortish spell at Griffin Park that yielded six goals in 13 games, Gazzard returned to his roots at Penzance and spent the rest of his playing career as a reinstated amateur with the Pirates.
After hanging up his boots in the late Sixties he stayed involved with Penzance – nicknamed The Magpies, rather than The Pirates, sadly – by becoming their manager, while he also held the post of secretary and eventually life-member of the South West League.
Gerry Gazzard passed away in the Cornish town he made home September 2006, aged 81.