Harry Stapley - West Ham United's first Olympic champion


West Ham United’s first Olympian was born on this day in 1883.

Having moved into the Boleyn Ground and seen the Club’s finances turned around, West Ham United sought to improve their playing squad in the summer of 1905.

Goalkeeper George Kitchen arrived from Everton, England international Fred Blackburn from Blackburn Rovers, striker Billy Grassam returned from Manchester United and a centre forward named Harry Stapley was signed from local club Woodford Town.

A schoolteacher, Stapley (pictured, above, middle row, seated second from left) played for the Irons as an amateur and continued to split his time between tutoring and football during his three years in Claret and Blue.

Scored the winning goal on his debut in a Southern League victory over Portsmouth at the Boleyn Ground on 23 December 1905 proved to be a sign of things to come.

Stapley scored nine goals in 13 Southern League appearances in his first season with West Ham, then finished as the Club’s leading scorer with 22 the following campaign, 1906/07.

That form saw the young forward capped regularly by England at amateur level, and he would score 22 goals in just eleven games for his country between 1907-09.

In the midst of that prolific form, Stapley was also included in the Great Britain team for the 1908 Summer Olympic Games, which were held in London.

It proved to be a memorable and hugely successful experience for the 25-year-old, with the Hammer inspiring the host nation to the Gold medal.

Stapley scored twice in a 12-1 thrashing of Sweden in the first round and all four goals in a 4-0 win over the Netherlands in the semi-finals. A 2-0 win over Denmark in the final at White City meant England were Olympic champions.

Unfortunately, West Ham’s first Olympian did not hang around to show off his silverware, instead taking up a teaching job in Derbyshire and later joining Football League Second Division club Glossop, where he continued to score regularly and played alongside his brother William.

Stapley retired in 1914 and later served as private secretary to Glossop chairman Samuel Hill-Wood when he was elected as the local Member of Parliament.

He continued to live in the Derbyshire town until his death, which incidentally occurred on this date in 1937, his 54th birthday.


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