FA Cup First Round 14 January 1911
In the Club’s first decade under their new title ‘West Ham United’, the non-League Hammers had the unenviable task of opposing Football League opposition in the FA Cup on no fewer than eight occasions. Along the way the east Londoners did cause some cup upsets but they had yet to succeed against a First Division team. In a remarkable turn of events this dramatically changed in the FA Cup campaign of 1910-11 when their exploits were rewarded with three giant-killing scalps before narrowly going out to a fourth top tier side.
The FA Cup First Round draw was kind, a first-ever home tie against today’s visitors Nottingham Forest on 14 January 1911. Come the day the weather conditions were so bad there was doubts as to whether the game would indeed start, as thick fog shrouded the playing field and blotted out the players.
A decision was made to open the Boleyn Ground turnstiles and spectators were only admitted on the understanding that no money would be returned if the match failed to take place or was abandoned. As kick-off time approached the referee, in consultation with both his linesmen decided to make a start, however, they had reservations the match would reach a conclusion, for at no time during the first half could spectators in the grandstand see across the field, or indeed from goal post to goal post.
Little can be said of the play before the interval, as only passing glimpses of the players could be caught, media reporting of the time was guided by the shouts of those who were in a position to see what was going on. By all accounts, the Forest players were struggling with the fog, although the match official was well up with the players taking part and followed the ball closely.
At half-time there was a consultation on the field between the referee, captains and directors, and after a short discussion, the usual interval was dispensed with. Directly the game restarted the fog lifted sufficiently for spectators to see all the players and the goal posts.
West Ham took the initiative and showed fierce determination to take the lead in the early stages of the second period, with the visitors’ goal surviving several narrow escapes. Danny Shea struck the first goal five minutes after the change of ends, with the ball at his feet, Tommy Randall ran from the half-way line before slipping it to the West Ham marksman who promptly scored with a fierce shot.
With a goal advantage and the possibility of a giant-killing on the cards the home side forced the pace. Although one couldn’t help admired the passing of the First Division opponents as Kitchen in the Hammers’ goal was forced into making a crucial save. Twenty minutes from the end the energy drained from the Forest men after Shea scored his second from a smart centre by Tommy Caldwell. Despite a late consolation goal from Morris the non-League Hammers held out to win 2-1.
Following the contest, the Forest secretary lodged a protest against the validity of the Cup-tie. The grounds for objection was that the fog was so dense the match should never have started and he contested it should not have resumed after the interval.
The Nottingham press were also quick to defend their local side; “It was not unfair to ask a side that was totally unfamiliar with a ground – a smaller ground than that they are accustomed to play on, and to do justice under such conditions. West Ham knew every inch of their little ground. The Foresters had never seen it before, and they would have felt cramped on it under the best of circumstances.”
How times have changed, West Ham United are regularly playing in front of 62,000 plus fans at the London Stadium, whereas the 30,445 capacity at the City Ground home of Nottingham Forest is less than half the Hammers total.
The Football Association quickly dismissed their protests, pointing out that Rule 14 clearly states that when a match is played to a finish it shall count as a cup-tie. It was also reported that Forest expressed their bitterness at their share of the gate receipts, only £452 available for distribution between the two clubs from the 12,000 attendance.
Gate receipts improved (£750) with West Ham’s 3-0 Second Round victory over First Division Preston North End, and (£1,530) as they recorded their greatest giant-killing feat by defeating Manchester United 2-1. However, the Boleyn Ground bubble deflated in the Fourth Round tie as the Hammers were narrowly squeezed out by Blackburn Rovers 2-3.
At the end of the season, Bradford City beat Newcastle in the Cup Final. Manchester United were crowned First Division Champions and Nottingham Forest were relegated to the Second Division in last place.