Alias Smith & Jones
Two Hammers whose histories had previously been bombed out
As anyone who has ever tried to trace their past ancestral history knows, what a huge undertaken it can be, especially if your surname happens to be either, Smith or Jones. Throw into the mix a German V1 Second World War flying bomb which destroyed all the clubs records and the task becomes even more daunting.
A flick through the current ‘Who’s Who’ of West Ham United players reveals that William Smith made two Football League First Division appearances in the late 1920s and Leslie Jones a war-time guest player from Arsenal played a total of 45 matches between June 1940 and April 1945.
However, the records can be deceiving, all credit to previous historians and genealogies who have painstaking tried to piece together the Hammers history from the ashes of the Boleyn Ground devastation in August 1944 and with surnames like Smith and Jones, there was always going to be some uncertainty and confusion.
For the record, William Smith was born in Corsham, Wiltshire on 29 September 1900 and played as an amateur in the Wiltshire League for Corsham F.C. before joining Southern League Bath City. Eighteen-months later he signed professional forms for Notts County and spent four years on Trentside before transferring to West Ham United on 10 August 1927.
Since his arrival at Upton Park the full-back had often been confused with his namesake Harold, an inside-forward who joined the Hammers a few months earlier, however, the British Library newspaper archives reveals a third Smith on West Ham’s books at the same time.
Primarily signed as a back-up player, William’s first competitive match was a London Combination fixture with Southampton two-weeks after signing. An injury to first team player Cyril Norrington enabled him to step up to make his Football League First Division debut on 7 January 1928. Playing in the full-back position he was on the wrong end of a 5-2 defeat at Leeds Road against Huddersfield Town. Contrary to existing records, for William, this would be his one and only appearance. After leaving the Hammers he played professional cricket as a fast medium-paced bowler for minor counties Wiltshire between 1929 and 1939. The discrepancy over his erroneously credited second appearance a year later on 19 January 1929 against Aston Villa, stems from a remarkable coincidence with his former teammate at Notts County, George Smith.
George also played at full-back and like William, also arrived at the Boleyn Ground via the Meadow Lane club albeit a year later on 1 June 1928.
Born in Glasgow, George took up the sport when serving in India, playing for his Army Regiment side. On leaving the services he joined his local club Strathclyde F.C. in the Glasgow Junior League. During his time with the Springfield Park side he gained a junior International cap against Ireland and during the 1924/25 season, he moved across the Scottish border and signed professional forms for Notts County. When the Magpies transferred Bill Ashurst to West Bromwich Albion during the 1926/27 season, George stepped into his boots admirably and over next four seasons at Meadow Lane he made 83 League appearances before moving further south to Upton Park on 1 June 1928. He made his initial claret and blue debut in the clubs pre-season public trial match on 18 August playing for the ‘Reds’ against the ‘Blues’ in a 7-4 win.
His first competitive match came in the 3-0 Upton Park win over Queens Park Rangers in the London Combination. The reserve defender was called into first team action in the absence of the injured Tommy Hodgson, his baptism of fire came against Aston Villa and followed the same fate as William, with both players making a solitary appearance, and both on the receiving end of a 5-2 away defeat. In his one season at the Boleyn Ground, George chalked up 23 London Combination appearance and three Metropolitan Mid-Week games.
William Smith passed away 6 January 1990, Melksham, Wiltshire aged 89, sadly George died 22 December 1948 in Nottingham, cause of death was suicide by coal gas poisoning whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed, he was 48 years of age.
As for the Jones’ in this story, guest player Leslie Jones from Arsenal is currently credited with 45 war-time appearances, when in fact the Aberdare born player only played 3 times, the remaining games should be attributed to Dai Jones a guest player from Leicester City.
Although both players appearances came during the war period and was therefore expunged from the official records, it’s nevertheless important they are at least recorded appropriately.