Black History Month - Remembering the pioneering career of West Ham United's John Charles


West Ham United pioneer John Charles has been celebrated at a special event held in his native Canning Town as part of Black History Month.

The full-back became one of the first Black players to represent the Hammers, captaining the U18s to FA Youth Cup glory before going on to make 142 first-team appearances between 1963-72, playing alongside some of the greatest players in the Club’s history.

Nicknamed ‘Charlo’, the defender also became the first Black player to represent England at any level when he featured for the U18s in Israel in 1962.

John’s younger brother Clive, who was born in Bow, also represented the Club in the early 1970s. The pair, alongside the likes of Clyde Best and Ade Coker - who made a goalscoring Hammers debut exactly 50 years ago today against Crystal Palace - blazed a trail for black footballers not just at West Ham but throughout English football.

Sadly, both John and Clive, who were the sons of a merchant seaman father born in Grenada and a mother born in Silvertown, passed away in their 50s, but their legacy lives on across east London and beyond. 

The Charles brothers were among a number of players who featured in a special exhibition celebrating ‘Newham’s Black Football Players Through the Years’, which ran throughout Black History Month 2021 at The Canning Gallery in Canning Town.

There, John’s son Mitch and his former West Ham teammate and friend Brian Dear attended a special event remembering his unique life and career in Claret and Blue.

You can learn his pioneering story now with West Ham TV.

*West Ham TV also met the family of the late West Ham United boot room manager Jack Leslie, who should have become England's first Black senior international in 1925, at the same exhibition. Click here to watch that moving video feature now.