Brentford vs West Ham, 1927 | Football's Greatest Upsets

The 1920’s are often seen as a great time in the world. People were experiencing new things, life was booming, and football was pretty much a staple of the working class. London was a happening place for the wealthy, and terrible for the working class. Ironically the same thing can be said for the city a century later. The FA Cup was a huge deal at the time, and sometimes a smaller club could pull off something big.


View from the Royal Box, West Ham v Bolton 1923 FA Cup Final ...
Football boomed in the 1920s


Brentford is a well supported club and back in the late 1920s, a former football referee Harry Curtis arrived at Griffin Park. What the supporters didn’t realize was the fun they were about to see with Curtis around. The Bee's had just been accepted into the Third Division as founding members after the First World War. They spent the ensuing years after the acceptance trying to avoid the re-election process. Their league form didn’t show immediate improvement, but a great cup run enthralled the fans.

The best player of this side was Patsy Hendron. Hendron had a history of giant killings in his pre-war days with Coventry.  By the time he arrived at Brentford, Hendron was in the final days of his career and was in the side with Jake Lane, a bit part in Burnley’s 1920 title winning side. Jack Allen, one of the strikers, was getting attention of the bigger clubs.

Across London, First Division side West Ham had arguably their best team of this era, containing four England internationals with Ted Hufton, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, and Jimmy Ruffell. The club suffered a slow start but were now pushing up the table without really worrying the league leaders. Entertaining Brentford at Upton Park in the 4th Round of the 1927 FA Cup and initial 1-1 draw meant a replay would be played three days later at Griffin Park.

West Ham United 1922/3 (6336758) Framed Prints, Wall Art, Posters
West Ham boasted a strong side in the 1920s


The Hammers came into the replay at Griffin Park with a strong side. The pitch was surprisingly in great condition for February. At this time, and all the way up until the EPL was formed, grass pitches weren't given 27/7 maintenance, so they would get torn apart. Also, the winter months would often see snow on the pitch. The Hammers tried some different things with the return leg, moving their star striker Vic Watson out to the inside left, and putting John Campbell to lead the line.

However, it was the Bee’s who came out first, as they were flying around through Hendron’s first minute pass to Allen. Allen forced a save from Hutton, while Yews kept Ferguson at bay with his shot down the other end. With such fast-paced play, it wasn’t a shock when a goal came early. After 11 minutes, the home side was delighted after Bert Bellamy’s free kick found the back of the net, much to the disappointment of West Ham goalie Hufton. Hufton was considered, at the time, the best in the world.

Brentford stayed on the attack, and could have doubled the lead before the break when Eddie Douglas ran through a flat backline. Douglas let off a shot that Hufton was able to stop. This was a big relief for the Hammers. However, they wasted a chance when a Yews cross fell for Campbell on an open net. Unfortunately, Campbell missed it. Into the second half, the Bees did the same thing as they missed a great shot on goal.

West Ham made one quick change at half putting Vic Watson back at his normal position of centre forward. The change made such a difference that West Ham started dominating possession. This panicked Brentford and they moved deeper into defence as waves of West Ham attacks came forward. It seemed certain that Watson would score, but as he charged down the field he hit a ball over the bar. Watson would continue to pressure the Brentford defence and Ferguson the Brentford keeper, who had to make amazing saves, one after another.

File:Brentford FC, 1927-28 team photograph.jpg - Wikipedia
Brentford were massive underdogs in 1927


A resulting corner worried the Brentford defence as Ferguson couldn’t punch the ball clear of the area. The ball was repossessed by West Ham and swung in to a mass of bodies, which Ferguson saved. The missed chance sparked on the home side, and they began to get forward again. With ten minutes to go, it looked like Brentford had weathered the West Ham storm. The West Ham defence was caught by surprise as Hendron’s quickly taken kick found Ernie Watkins, and he ran past the defenders racing towards the goal. That’s when he slipped a ball to Jack Allen who fired past Hufton for the second goal.

That second goal was a gut punch to the Hammers at a time in the match that they didn’t need. Since it was in the dying minutes they needed to rush back up the field and get two goals. Brentford weren’t troubled in the final minutes and even almost added a third goal. The match was very entertaining and both managers praised the groundsmen. The managers also pointed out how the pitch was a much greater quality allowing for a more attractic style of football for the players to exhibit.

Sadly, in the next round Reading wasn’t able to offer similar conditions and Brentford crashed out. The Bee’s form in the Third Division also crashed, and they only managed four more victories the whole season. Jack Allen was destined for bigger things and left in April for Sheffield Wednesday. He ended up as the top scorer on their title winning sides of 1929 and 1930, but his most famous goal?

Newcastle United FC on Twitter: "🗓 #OnThisDay in 1932, #NUFC ...
Allen scores for Newcastle

In came in 1932 when Allen was playing for Newcastle. With the Magpies down a goal against Arsenal, a ball that seemed to be going out for a goal kick swung back into Allen’s path. The striker naturally put the ball in the back of the net. It’s still considered one of the most controversial goals in cup history, even overshadowing Allen’s second goal which gave him the winners medal of the day. In 1936, he retired and became a landlord of the Traveller’s Rest pub in Burnopfield. He died in 1957.

The victory of Brentford over their London rivals West Ham offers weight to the notion that nothing is ever certain in football. The FA Cup remains, to this day, able to conjure up some of the sport's most intriguing encounters as the underdogs frequently upset footballing giants. It would appear that each and every side in English football has their underdog story and indeed an embarassing defeat to a 'lesser side' in their history. Brentford, had achieved a remarkable win in 1927 - one of the tournament's finest ever seasons. It would Welsh side Cardiff City who would eventually win the cup against Chapman's Arsenal - another true underdog story!

This piece was kindly written for @TFHBs by writer Stephen Brandt - you can follow him on Twitter here (@StephenCBrandt)

©The Football History Boys, 2020


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