George Hilsdon

George Hilsdon went to Marner Street School with Billy Bridgeman. Hilsdon played for East Ham Boys and was spotted playing in a Sunday League match by Syd King. The 18 year old signed for West Ham just before the start of the 1904-05. He scored in his first game for the club on 11th February, 1905. By the end of the season he had scored four goals in seven games. He continued this good run of form the following season where he scored 3 in 9 games. As a result, John Tait Robertson, persuaded Hilsdon to play for Chelsea. He was an immediate success scoring five goals on his debut. That season his 26 goals helped Chelsea to get promoted to the First Division. In 1907 he played his first game for England. Hilsdon scored an amazing 14 goals in 8 international games. Unfortunately, Hilsdon developed a drinking problem and lost his place in the Chelsea team in the 1911-12 season. After scoring 107 goals in 164 games he returned to West Ham. In his first season he scored 17 goals in 36 games. The First World War brought an end to Hilsdon's top-class football career. He joined the British Army and like many soldiers who served on the Western Front, had to endure a mustard gas attack at Arras in 1917. This badly damaged his lungs and although he played briefly for Chatham Town after the war. He scored 14 goals in six games in 1919 but he was eventually forced to retire from the game. In 1924 Hilsdon joined Fred Karno's Troup, a popular vaudeville act. George Hilsdon died in September, 1941.

George Hilsdon

George Richard Hilsdon (10 August 1885 – 10 September 1941) was a footballer who began his career at West Ham United, making his debut in the 1903–04 season. His brother Jack Hilsdon also played for West Ham at this time. Hilsdon transferred to Chelsea in 1906, and was the first player to score 100 goals for the West London club, reaching a then-record 108 goals from 164 games by the time of his return to West Ham in 1912. His career was ended by the First World War, to which he was conscripted in 1914 and crucially injured by a gas attack.

Hilsdon was nicknamed "Gatling Gun" because his shots "were simply unstoppable and which travel like shots from a gun".

Chelsea FC Player Profile: George Hilsdon

* oth = other competitive matches such as Full Members Cup, Charity/Community Shield, Fifa World Club Cup.
Figures in ( ) are substitute appearances and are also included in the totals.
i.e. George Hilsdon made 164 appearances for Chelsea, of which 0 were as a substitute.

Competitive Matches Played

CompDateHome AwayAtt
League1st Sep 1906Chelsea92Glossop12,000
League8th Sep 1906Blackpool00Chelsea6,000
League15th Sep 1906Chelsea51Bradford City10,000
League22nd Sep 1906West Bromwich Albion12Chelsea25,562
League29th Sep 1906Chelsea10Leicester Fosse20,000
League6th Oct 1906Nottingham Forest31Chelsea24,000
League20th Oct 1906Burton United21Chelsea4,000
League27th Oct 1906Chelsea20Grimsby Town18,000 (1 Pen)
League3rd Nov 1906Burslem Port Vale20Chelsea5,000
League10th Nov 1906Chelsea20Burnley10,000
League17th Nov 1906Leeds City01Chelsea8,000
League24th Nov 1906Chelsea21Barnsley14,000
League1st Dec 1906Chesterfield Town00Chelsea6,000
League8th Dec 1906Wolverhampton Wanderers12Chelsea8,000
League15th Dec 1906Chelsea21Clapton Orient15,000
League22nd Dec 1906Gainsborough Trinity11Chelsea3,000
League25th Dec 1906Hull City01Chelsea16,000
League29th Dec 1906Glossop01Chelsea4,000
League1st Jan 1907Stockport County12Chelsea7,000
League5th Jan 1907Chelsea30Blackpool15,000
F.A. Cup12th Jan 1907Lincoln City22Chelsea5,000
F.A. Cup16th Jan 1907Chelsea01Lincoln City11,883
League26th Jan 1907Chelsea20West Bromwich Albion41,168
League2nd Feb 1907Leicester Fosse11Chelsea17,000
League9th Feb 1907Chelsea02Nottingham Forest15,000
League4th Mar 1907Chelsea20Stockport County8,000 (1 Pen)
League9th Mar 1907Chelsea21Burslem Port Vale8,000 (1 Pen)
League23rd Mar 1907Chelsea20Leeds City25,000 (1 Pen)
League29th Mar 1907Chelsea30Hull City48,000
League30th Mar 1907Barnsley31Chelsea5,000
League6th Apr 1907Chelsea71Chesterfield Town12,000
League13th Apr 1907Chelsea40Wolverhampton Wanderers30,000
League20th Apr 1907Clapton Orient01Chelsea18,000
League27th Apr 1907Chelsea41Gainsborough Trinity15,000 (1 Pen)
League7th Sep 1907Chelsea24Sheffield United25,000
League14th Sep 1907Newcastle United10Chelsea35,000
League21st Sep 1907Nottingham Forest60Chelsea20,000
League23rd Sep 1907Chelsea20Newcastle United20,000
League28th Sep 1907Chelsea14Manchester United30,000
League5th Oct 1907Blackburn Rovers20Chelsea10,000
League12th Oct 1907Chelsea13Bolton Wanderers35,000
League19th Oct 1907Birmingham11Chelsea20,000
League26th Oct 1907Chelsea21Everton50,000
League2nd Nov 1907Sunderland30Chelsea13,000
League9th Nov 1907Chelsea21Woolwich Arsenal55,000
League16th Nov 1907The Wednesday31Chelsea22,000
League23rd Nov 1907Chelsea41Bristol City20,000
League2nd Dec 1907Chelsea10Blackburn Rovers18,000
League7th Dec 1907Chelsea22Manchester City50,000
League14th Dec 1907Preston North End24Chelsea8,000
League21st Dec 1907Chelsea34Bury35,000
League25th Dec 1907Liverpool14Chelsea30,000
League26th Dec 1907Chelsea10Middlesbrough40,000
League28th Dec 1907Aston Villa00Chelsea30,000
League1st Jan 1908Middlesbrough31Chelsea30,000
League4th Jan 1908Sheffield United03Chelsea5,000
F.A. Cup11th Jan 1908Worksop Town19Chelsea18,995
League18th Jan 1908Chelsea04Nottingham Forest35,000
League25th Jan 1908Manchester United10Chelsea30,000
F.A. Cup1st Feb 1908Manchester United10Chelsea25,184
League8th Feb 1908Bolton Wanderers12Chelsea18,000
League7th Mar 1908Woolwich Arsenal00Chelsea30,000
League14th Mar 1908Chelsea31The Wednesday30,000
League21st Mar 1908Bristol City00Chelsea15,000
League1st Apr 1908Everton03Chelsea10,000
League11th Apr 1908Chelsea00Preston North End40,000
League18th Apr 1908Bury11Chelsea11,000 (1 Pen)
League20th Apr 1908Chelsea02Liverpool40,000
League29th Apr 1908Chelsea12Notts County10,000
League1st Sep 1908Chelsea00Preston North End25,000
League5th Sep 1908Liverpool21Chelsea25,000
League7th Sep 1908Preston North End60Chelsea6,000
League12th Sep 1908Chelsea41Bury50,000
League19th Sep 1908Sheffield United13Chelsea15,000
League21st Sep 1908Chelsea21Nottingham Forest20,000
League26th Sep 1908Chelsea02Aston Villa40,000
League3rd Oct 1908Nottingham Forest21Chelsea18,000
League10th Oct 1908Chelsea20Sunderland35,000
League17th Oct 1908Chelsea22The Wednesday25,000
League31st Oct 1908Chelsea11Bradford City30,000
League7th Nov 1908Manchester United01Chelsea20,000 (1 Pen)
League14th Nov 1908Chelsea33Everton40,000 (1 Pen)
League21st Nov 1908Leicester Fosse52Chelsea15,000
League28th Nov 1908Chelsea12Woolwich Arsenal55,000
League5th Dec 1908Notts County30Chelsea12,000
League12th Dec 1908Chelsea12Newcastle United25,000
League19th Dec 1908Bristol City10Chelsea10,000
League1st Jan 1909Middlesbrough14Chelsea25,000
League2nd Jan 1909Chelsea30Liverpool30,000 (1 Pen)
F.A. Cup16th Jan 1909Hull City11Chelsea18,100
F.A. Cup20th Jan 1909Chelsea10Hull City25,792
League23rd Jan 1909Chelsea11Sheffield United25,000
League30th Jan 1909Aston Villa00Chelsea18,000
F.A. Cup6th Feb 1909Blackburn Rovers21Chelsea31,897
League27th Feb 1909Chelsea11Blackburn Rovers10,000 (1 Pen)
League13th Mar 1909Chelsea11Manchester United30,000
League20th Mar 1909Everton32Chelsea25,000 (1 Pen)
League22nd Mar 1909The Wednesday51Chelsea12,000
League31st Mar 1909Bury21Chelsea3,000
League3rd Apr 1909Woolwich Arsenal00Chelsea20,000
League9th Apr 1909Chelsea30Middlesbrough50,000
League10th Apr 1909Chelsea32Notts County30,000 (1 Pen)
League17th Apr 1909Newcastle United13Chelsea30,000 (1 Pen)
League20th Apr 1909Bradford City30Chelsea14,000
League26th Apr 1909Chelsea31Bristol City12,000
League29th Apr 1909Chelsea10Leicester Fosse10,000
League1st Sep 1909Chelsea22Notts County12,000
League4th Sep 1909Chelsea21Liverpool27,000 (1 Pen)
League6th Nov 1909Chelsea01Everton35,000
League1st Jan 1910Newcastle United10Chelsea30,000
League8th Jan 1910Liverpool51Chelsea25,000
League10th Jan 1910Preston North End20Chelsea9,000
F.A. Cup15th Jan 1910Chelsea21Hull City34,700
League22nd Jan 1910Chelsea00Aston Villa30,000
F.A. Cup5th Feb 1910Chelsea01Tottenham Hotspur31,776
League19th Feb 1910Chelsea21Middlesbrough20,000
League26th Feb 1910Chelsea31Blackburn Rovers30,000
League5th Mar 1910Nottingham Forest00Chelsea7,000
League7th Mar 1910Sheffield United00Chelsea8,000
League12th Mar 1910Chelsea14Sunderland15,000
League19th Mar 1910Everton22Chelsea10,000
League26th Mar 1910Chelsea11Manchester United25,000
League9th Apr 1910Chelsea41The Wednesday25,000
League3rd Sep 1910Derby County14Chelsea12,000
League10th Sep 1910Chelsea31Barnsley21,000
League17th Sep 1910Leicester Fosse10Chelsea16,000
League24th Sep 1910Chelsea20Wolverhampton Wanderers29,000
League1st Oct 1910Chelsea30Bolton Wanderers25,000
League8th Oct 1910Clapton Orient00Chelsea25,000
League15th Oct 1910Chelsea00Blackpool30,000
League22nd Oct 1910Glossop21Chelsea7,000
League29th Oct 1910Chelsea70Lincoln City25,000
League12th Nov 1910Chelsea22Birmingham17,000
League10th Dec 1910Chelsea30Bradford Park Avenue14,000
League17th Dec 1910Burnley11Chelsea7,000
League24th Dec 1910Chelsea30Gainsborough Trinity16,000
League26th Dec 1910Leeds City33Chelsea18,000
League27th Dec 1910Chelsea20Stockport County30,000
League31st Dec 1910Chelsea32Derby County32,000
League2nd Jan 1911Stockport County22Chelsea5,000
League7th Jan 1911Barnsley32Chelsea7,000
F.A. Cup14th Jan 1911Chelsea00Leyton19,167
F.A. Cup19th Jan 1911Leyton02Chelsea14,000
League21st Jan 1911Chelsea20Leicester Fosse18,000
League28th Jan 1911Wolverhampton Wanderers00Chelsea16,000
F.A. Cup4th Feb 1911Chesterfield Town14Chelsea28,400
League11th Feb 1911Chelsea10Clapton Orient41,000
League18th Feb 1911Blackpool02Chelsea6,000
F.A. Cup25th Feb 1911Wolverhampton Wanderers02Chelsea33,028
League4th Mar 1911Lincoln City00Chelsea4,000
League6th Mar 1911Chelsea20Glossop12,000
F.A. Cup11th Mar 1911Chelsea31Swindon Town77,952
League18th Mar 1911Birmingham21Chelsea25,000
League20th Mar 1911Chelsea20Huddersfield Town12,000
League2nd Sep 1911Chelsea00Stockport County28,000
League9th Sep 1911Leeds City00Chelsea15,000
League11th Sep 1911Chelsea10Derby County20,000
League7th Oct 1911Grimsby Town21Chelsea8,000
League2nd Mar 1912Chelsea30Clapton Orient45,000
League9th Mar 1912Bristol City11Chelsea15,000
League20th Mar 1912Gainsborough Trinity02Chelsea3,000
League23rd Mar 1912Huddersfield Town13Chelsea13,000
League6th Apr 1912Glossop12Chelsea4,000
League8th Apr 1912Derby County20Chelsea17,000
Return to Player Directory.
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Games Won:77
Win Percentage:46.95%
Total Bookings:0
Times Sent Off:0

During his Chelsea career of 164 appearances, George Hilsdon played alongside the following 61 players (number of appearances together in brackets)

Military service and later life

During the First World War Hilsdon tried to avoid active service and was caught by the police hiding in a chicken run, and was called up. He fought on the Western Front where he was attacked by gas. This affected him greatly, and in the words of his son, he "copped the mustard gas at Arras".

The gas attack caused sufficient damage to Hilsdon to end his footballing career. After the War, he worked as a teaboy on building sites, ran a pub and organised raffles in East End pubs.

He died in Leicester in 1941 and only four people came to his funeral. In October 2015 Chelsea supporters raised funds for a headstone to mark his grave. A weather vane modelled on Hilsdon is still a feature of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground. It was said to cause great misfortune if removed, and when it had to be removed during renovation in the late 1970s, Chelsea suffered financial and footballing difficulties. [1]

Chelsea fans honour Blues legend and war hero George Hilsdon

Although the name George Hilsdon will not be known to every Chelsea fan, his image may well be.

After all, there is a weather vane in his honour proudly sitting on top of the East Stand of Stamford Bridge.

Hilsdon died penniless in 1941 with just four people attending his funeral, which was paid for by the FA. He has been in an unmarked grave for more than 70 years and this is something that Chelsea fans have bandied together to change.

This week, a group of Blues fans were delighted to announce that they have raised enough money to buy a headstone for Hilsdon.

The money was raised by fan donations and after a concerted campaign the group got enough money together to proceed.

Hilsdon is an important figure in the history of Chelsea and was one of the first legends at the club.

He joined a year after the club was founded and stayed for six years, scoring 108 goals. He was so prolific that he earned the name ‘Gatling Gun’ after scoring five goals on his debut.

He was the first player to score a century of goals for Chelsea and went on to serve in the First World War, during which he was wounded in a gas attack that ended his career.

Chelsea should be proud to have a set of supporters that have taken the time to raise the money to properly honour a key part of the club’s history.

OTD: George Hilsdon Becomes Chelsea FC’s First England Player

George Hilsdon was a man of many firsts for Chelsea FC. He became the first Blue to score 100 goals for the club, the first to score six goals in an FA Cup match, and in February of 1907 in a match against Ireland he became the first Chelsea player to represent England. Hilsdon began his career with West Ham United in 1903 but transferred to Chelsea in 1906 to become one of the most prolific scorers in club history. He announced his goalscoring intentions early on by scoring five goals in his debut for the team and went on to earn the nickname Gatling Gun because his shots on goal “were simply unstoppable and which travel like shots from a gun.”

George Hilsdon, Chelsea&rsquos first goals centurion. (Thank you, West Ham.)

&mdash Rick Glanvill (@RickGlanvill) November 21, 2013

Hilsdon went on to score 108 goals in 164 appearances and is still the 9th highest goalscorer of all-time for Chelsea. His six goals in one FA Cup match are still a club record which has stood for over 100 years. His prowess in front of goal was not just limited to the club level as he went on to score 14 goals in just eight international appearances for the Three Lions.

The England man returned to West Ham in 1912 after battling injuries and alcoholism at the tail end of his Chelsea career. Despite these setbacks he still scored a goal nearly every two games for the East London club. His football career came to an end after suffering serious injuries on the frontlines in World War I.

Hilsdon does not have a statue at Stamford Bridge but there is a weather vane modeled after his appearance and it is said that it will bring terrible luck and misfortune if removed from the ground. If anything, George Hilsdon was a colorful character who struggled with many personal issues but still remains one of the best and most prolific goalscorers in Chelsea history.

Speaking to the Gatling Gun: An “interview” with George Hilsdon

GAME OF THE PEOPLE has been able to access some archive material from a lesser-known newspaper from the early 20 th century. From a series of spotlight articles, we have been able to produce an interview with Chelsea and England centre forward George Hilsdon. It has been written in the modern style as if GOTP had an exclusive interview with the player known as “Gatling-Gun”. The words of Hilsdon are actually taken from these archive articles. This brief interview takes place in the Chelsea dressing room on the eve of the 1907-08 season.

George Hilsdon was enjoying a glass of cloudy lemonade as he sat sweating following an intense training session at Stamford Bridge. There was an air of expectation about the ground as the club prepared for its debut first division campaign. The beads of perspiration were rolling off his head and his hair, to quote the Chelsea centre forward, was “as dank as seaweed”. His team-mates were dotted around the dressing room, either sitting on the wooden forms or were walking around in various stages of nudity, enjoying a rub-down from the trainer. There was plenty of good-natured banter going on as Hilsdon talked of the summer training sessions. Jimmy Windridge, another of Chelsea’s talented forwards, was singing “Excelsior” but was stopped in his tracks by the flick of a damp towel. “That was the vilest bray I have heard outside the throat of a donkey,” joked Hilsdon.

He had come a long way from his humble beginnings in Bromley-by-Bow, where he was born in 1885. He was spotted playing at Marner Street School and then Plashet Lane. After his schooldays, Hilsdon played for Boleyn Castle FC and later South West Ham FC. On Sundays, he turned out for the British Empire FC. Before too long West Ham had signed him as an amateur. “I scored nine goals against Barking National and that was enough for West Ham to invite me along,” he recalled.

Scoring goals has always come naturally to Hilsdon and there have been several occasions where he has netted in multiples in a single game. “I remember with some satisfaction the four goals I put in against Bristol Rovers for West Ham in a Western League match,” he said.

Hilsdon was injured in 1904-05 season and was still suffering from the after-effect in 1905-06, but Chelsea’s manager, John Tait Robertson saw something special in the young forward and took him to South West London.

At Chelsea, he made a big impact in his first game, scoring five against Glossop on his debut. The Fulham Chronicle reported: “Hilsdon’s form was quite phenomenal – he justified the high opinions which had already been formed of him, and his “bar” of five goals stamps him as a first-rate marksman.”

He scored 10 goals in the first eight games of the 1906-07 season and was soon attracting the attention of the international selectors.

In fact, he was picked to play for the Football League against the Irish League in 1906-07, scoring three of the League’s six goals. In February 1907, he lined-up for England in the British Championship game against Ireland at Goodison Park. Hilsdon was not too pleased with the way his England debut went: “I was injured while shooting for goal. Nobody was to blame, I jarred the muscles in my foot myself.” A lot of people felt that the Irish had set out to injure Hilsdon after his performance against the league side.

He ended 1906-07 with 28 goals, all scored in the league, and promotion from the second division. How important he will be to Chelsea’s season among the big names of the English game.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Syd King: The Early History

Reproduced here with kind permission is the story of Syd King: The Early History of West Ham United by historian John Simkin. For further fascinating insights into the history of West Ham United you should check out the Spartacus Educational site.

In the summer of 1895, when the clanging of "hammers" was heard on the banks of Father Thames and great warships were rearing their heads above the Victoria Dock Road, a few enthusiasts, with the love of football within them, were talking about the grand old game and the formation of a club for the workers of the Thames Ironworks Limited. There were platers and riveters in the Limited who had chased the big ball in the North country. There were men among them who had learned to give the subtle pass and to urge the leather goalwards. And so when the idea was first suggested that an amateur club should be formed, it met with a ready response from the employs of the Thames Ironworks. These early organisers, of what, in a later age, is known as West Ham United, also found a generous patron in Mr. A. F. Hills.

Before passing along to the first appearance of the club in the field, I ought to point out that West Ham is one of the oldest football centres in the country. The fact is not generally known that Blackburn Rovers have met Upton Park - not the present club of that name - in a late round of the Association Cup competition in West Ham Park. "The oldest inhabitant " tells me that Blackburn Rovers won. I mention these things to show that when the Thames Ironworks F. C. came before the local public a great deal was known about the game and, indeed, the way had been prepared for the Ironworks by clubs like St. Luke's, Old St. Luke's, and Old Castle Swifts. Canning Town and West Ham, generally in those days even, was a hotbed of football. Old Castle Swifts had the distinction of being the first professional club in Essex, and they played on a field hard by the Hermit Road. Their existence was brief. The Hermit Road "cinder heap" - it was nothing better - lay untenanted after their demise, and it was this barren waste that the Thames Ironworks decided to occupy. A few meetings were called, and the project talked over. Foremen and overseers in the Limited were persuaded to give their support, a committee was elected, and secretaries appointed. Roughly speaking, the membership did not exceed fifty. No thought of professionalism, I may say, was ever contemplated by the founders. They meant to run their club on amateur lines, and their first principle was to choose their team from men in the works.

On September 7, 1895, eleven men from the works turned out at Hermit Road to play the reserve team of the Royal Ordnance F. C. The pages of history record that the result was a draw, 1-1, and everybody went home satisfied.

Bob Stevenson who captained Woolwich Arsenal at one period of their existence, was the first captain of the Thames Ironworks, and in those early days the training was done on week nights at a school-room in the Barking Road. The players used also occasionally to go out for a moonlight spin on the turnpike road. Their trainer was Tommy Robinson, and he is still trainer to West Ham United. There is a break of several seasons in his service, however, during which we saw him smoking his cigar on match days and thinking hard when the game was going against the side in which he has always taken a deep interest.

The Ironworks' first season came to a close, with happy results. They had to move from Hermit Road, though, the next year, and they subsequently appeared at Browning Road, East Ham. For some reason, not altogether explained, the local public at this place did not take kindly to them, and the records show that Browning Road was a wilderness both in the matter of luck and support. Still there was a bright time coming, it was thought, and people were beginning to talk about the Memorial Grounds at Canning Town. This vast athletic enclosure was built by Mr. Hills, and, if my memory is not at fault, I think it was opened on Jubilee Day, 1897. History has been made at the Memorial Grounds. Troubles and triumphs are associated with the enclosure, but, somehow, West Ham never succeeded there as it was once thought they would. Thames Ironworks, however, won the London League championship in 1898.

The next season they entered the Second Division of the Southern League and won the championship at the first time of asking. The season 1898-9 will also be remembered as the year in which they embraced professionalism. One of the arguments advanced at the time was that none but a tip-top team of good players could draw the multitude to the Memorial Grounds. Following its adoption there were more trials and troubles. Those supporters who remained loyal will remember the year as one in which West Ham United certain officials came under the ban of the F.A. It was distinctly unfortunate, and for a time dark clouds threatened the club.

Thames Ironworks were next invited to knock at the door of the First Division of the Southern League. And knock they did. They were admitted, only to discover that the higher you go the more difficulties you may expect to encounter. In September, 1899, then, they made their entry into the First Division. Ill-luck dogged them all the way. They won only eight matches, and finished in the table just above Sheppey United. All this while the man in the street was talking about the club.

The time was ripe for a limited liability company, and the public were shortly afterwards invited to take up shares. Next year the name was changed from Thames Ironworks to West Ham United, and henceforward the doors of the club were open to the rank and file.

The record of 1899-1900, however, would not be complete without some reference to the players who were associated with the club at that time. There was poor Harry Bradshaw, who came from the "Sp*rs" with Joyce. How well I remember that match with Queen's Park Rangers during the Christmas holidays, when Joyce brought over the sad message to the Memorial Grounds that our comrade had passed away. Poor Harry was one of the cleverest wing-forwards I have ever known, and he was immensely popular with everybody. He joined the club with me, and with us in the team were McEachrane (now with the Arsenal), Craig (Notts Forest), my partner at full-back, Carnelly, and Joyce. We had some rare talent in our reserve team too, for, if my memory is not at fault, there were J. Bigden (now of the Arsenal), R. Pudan (Bristol Rovers), and Yenson (Queen's Park Rangers).

Retaining several of their old players, in the following season, 1900-1, West Ham finished up sixth on the Southern League table. This, indeed, was progress. It was the first year of the intermediate rounds of the English Cup competition, and it was our fortune to meet Liverpool at the Memorial Grounds. They beat us by only 1 goal, and we were rather unlucky to lose. Goldie (Fulham) played against us, and Satterthwaite, who afterwards became identified with West Ham, was Liverpool's twelfth man. Grassam joined us that year, and Hugh Monteith kept goal for the "Hammers," as we were then styled.

Next season, 1901-2, is the brightest in the history of the club. It was roses all the way, but there was one ugly thorn, and that a beating from Grays United in the National Cup competition. We reached fourth position in the League table, finishing behind Portsmouth, "Sp*rs," and "Saints."

In that year I was appointed assistant-secretary, and at a later period, as is generally known, I became secretary-manager.

We lost the services of several of our best men the following season, 1902-3. That was the penalty, I suppose, we had to pay for success. All the same, we had a useful team, among whom was Fred Griffiths, the Welsh International goalkeeper J. Blythe, who afterwards went to Millwall and Linward, who was transferred to the Arsenal. And the club certainly deserved a higher position than tenth on the table, where we subsequently finished. The Cup competition saw us beaten at Lincoln, and the match will be remembered if only for the accident to Kelly, who, although he broke his ankle, went on playing till within a few minutes of the finish.

Now we come to the season 1903-4. This was one of the most eventful in the history of the club. The West Ham United Football Club Company dates from 1900-1. The open door, so to speak, had been productive of good results. The charge that the club was out of sympathy with the local public was not repeated in 1903. A lot of prejudice had been lived down and forgotten, and I don't suppose any club has had to fight harder for its existence than West Ham United. Even as we stood on the threshold of 1903-4 a great and overwhelming difficulty beset us. It was the last year of our agreement concerning the occupancy of the Memorial Grounds.

But before I pass along to the stirring events which marked the close of that season, let me say something about the team. We were reinforced by a strong contingent from Reading, including Allison, Cotton, Watts, and Lyon. With regard to the performances of the team that year, I regret to say that we did not succeed as we should have liked. Fulham beat us by a goal in the Cup competition, and in the League we were the reverse of comfortable - a fact which did not help to encourage us when we knew that we must leave the Memorial Grounds and that a new home had to be found. The immediate and pressing difficulty of West Ham at the close of the 1901 season was the question of ground. The directors endeavoured to negotiate with Mr. A. F. Hills for a further lease of seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years of the Memorial Grounds at a good rental, the club to have sole control.

Unfortunately as we thought then, but luckily as it afterwards turned out, no agreement could be arrived at. And we had to go. But where to? A piece of waste ground was offered us by the corporation, but this would not do. I well remember the facts concerning our lifting up and being placed on dry land, as it were. It was during our last few days at the Memorial Grounds. A match was being played between boys of the Home Office Schools. One of the Brothers from the Boleyn Castle School was present. We told him of our difficulty, and showed him the letter from Mr. Hills. An arrangement was made with the Brother there and then to go and see the Boleyn Castle Ground. We agreed to take it. A week later we were thrown back into the lap of despair again by being told that the Home Office would not approve of the action of the Brothers. A deputation of directors waited upon Mr. Ernest Gray, M.P., and through his good offices and certain conditions on our part we were finally allowed to take possession of Boleyn Castle.

It is a place with a history. There the unfortunate lady whose name is linked with that of Henry VIII. has resided. There are legends and stories about this fine old mansion - now a school.

At their new ground the West Ham Club hope to make football history, and I may say that 1904-5 - our first season at the Castle - was also the first year we have ever made a profit on the season's working.

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Bromley-on-Bow, East London born George “Gatling Gun” Hilsdon had a remarkable football career, which started in junior football with South West Ham in 1900 and Castle Swifts in 1901 before initially signing for Clapton Orient later the same year. He joined Southern League Luton Town in 1902 and then Syd King’s West Ham United in November 1904. Hilsdon scored in his first game for the club in a 2-0 win over New Brompton on 11th February 1905 but he struggled to make the breakthrough and scored 7 goals in 18 appearances.

In June 1906 Hilsdon was recommended to then Chelsea manager John Robertson, who had been advised that Hilsdon would be available for transfer so enthralled was Robertson with Hilsdon’s ability that he promised to turn him into Chelsea’s next centre forward. Hilsdon joined Chelsea later that year on £4 a week wages. He scored five goals on his debut in a 9-2 win over Glossop North End, and would later score six in an FA Cup tie with Worksop Town in January 1908, a club record which remains unequalled. The club programme described him as “living proof that to become a first class footballer it is not necessary to be born north of the Tweed”.

Hilsdon scored 27 goals that season, which helped earn Chelsea promotion to the First Division in their second year of professional football as Second Division runners up. The following year in the top flight he managed 24 League goals in addition to his Worksop double hat-trick, including all four goals in a 4-1 win over Bristol City in November 1907 and a hat-trick at Everton in April 1908, with further hat-tricks against Everton and Middlesbrough in 1908-09. Within three years he had acored 76 goals in 99 appearances.

However his later days with Chelsea were hindered by problems with injuries and his personal life, including a battle with alcoholism, though he did score 19 goals in 1910-11, with hat-tricks at Derby County and Leeds City. He became the first Chelsea player to score 100 goals, and ended his time there with 108 from 164 games. He is currently the club’s 9th highest goal scorer of all time.

He broke into the England team in February 1907 making his international debut against Ireland at Goodison Park, and he scored a remarkable 14 times in only 8 internationals including 4 goals against Hungary in June 1908, failing to score in only two of his games. His 12 goals in 1908 was an England record for a single year to that date. He also played twice for The Football League. Hilsdon was nicknamed “Gatling Gun” because his shots “were simply unstoppable and which travel like shots from a gun.”

In June 1912 he returned to West Ham United where he added a further 24 goals in 74 games to total 35 goals in all competitions for The Hammers from 92 games. Unfortunately the First World War finished his career, he was badly injured by a gas attack at the Battle of Arras while fighting with the East Surrey Regiment in June 1917 and never played senior football again, his damaged lungs merely allowing him to play six games for non league Chatham Town in 1919, albeit he bagged another 14 goals for them in those games, after which he retired.

Chelsea FC Archive 1985/86

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