Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Through the Lens: Photographs From The Past Part 10: Malcolm “Big Al” Allison

Malcolm Allison, who was born on 5th September 1927 and died on 14th October 2010 was arguably one of the most exuberant characters in English football. Big Al was not only known as a great innovator in revolutionising football training methods, but he was also a flamboyant and outspoken character that had a huge impact on modern football.

Missing his chance for schoolboy honours due to the outbreak of war, Allison joined Erith and Belvedere FC earning Kent Country amateur honours and later when in the forces skippered British Combined Services XI against an Australian International Team and the French Army.

Malcolm’s promising career as a centre half was ended prematurely as a West Ham player due to contracting tuberculosis when he feel ill after a match against Sheffield United on 16th September 1957 resulting in having a lung removed. This proved to be his last senior game for the club.

Malcolms future as a manager was evident in his early playing career as he challenged club coaches at Charlton Athletic, where he struggled to make an impact on the pitch, for their outdated training methods.

Joining West Ham United in February 1951 for £7,000 as a replacement for Dick Walker Allison made 238 appearances and scored 10 goals but after his illness struggled with fitness as he battled to play on in the reserve team. Malcolm left football for a while but returned to play for non-league Romford in 1963.

Malcolm carried a great enthusiasm for the game and was always striving for improvements and his influence on tactics an team selection were a key feature of his time at West Ham. Malcolm would often stay behind after training to talk tactics and he was a mentor to the young Bobby Moore at the start of his career. Malcolm had his first taste of coaching at West Ham when Ted Fenton was manager, who also created The Academy and the development of youth teams that reached the FA Youth Cup Final twice in the three years between 1956-59.

Malcolm Allison heading the ball Football League Division Two West Ham United v Birmingham City, 06 September, 1952 (This is actually cropped from a larger photograph, but is a still well composed as an image)

Moore said of Malcolm:

“I’d been a professional for two and a half months and Malcolm had taught me everything I know…. When Malcolm was coaching schoolboys he took a liking to me when I don’t think anyone else at West Ham saw anything special in me… I looked up to the man. It’s not too strong to say I loved him.”

Malcolm hung up his boots after the 1963 season and pursued his career in coaching and became Joe Mercer’s assistant at Manchester City in 1965. Mercer had previously suffered from ill health and wanted a young and energetic assistant so he sought out Allison whom he knew from coaches courses at Lillshall. Malcolm had already managed non-league Bath City, leading them to 3rd place in the league and a 3rd round FA Cup tie with 1st Division Bolton Wanderers.

Malcolm then managed Plymouth Argyle from May 1964 and returned to Bath to sign full back Tony Book, where he encouraged Book to doctor his birth certificate to appear younger as Allison feared Argyle would not sign a 30 year old player with no League Football experience.

At Manchester City Malcolm and Mercer era is considered one of the strongest in their history, winning 1st Division in 1967-68 season, winning FA Cup in 1969 and League Cup and Cup Winners Cup in 1970. Although Mercer had the final say as manager, it is understood that Malcolm inspired him to buy the players that would become the heart of the side – Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee. Malcolm motivated and trained the team towards promotion and their successes, but there were still controversies as Allison was blamed for signing the disruptive Rodney Marsh from Queens Park Rangers. Allison had an offer to manage Juventus, but turned it down in the understanding that Mercer would stand aside. Mercer was critical of the media attention on Allison and his love of the limelight as he became a regular in gossip and fashion columns. A power struggle ensued that left Mercer sidelined and Malcolm continued as manager after Mercer left for Coventry, but struggled and he resigned in March 1973.

Mike Summerbee, who played under Allison at Man City, paid tribute to his former gaffer: “Malcolm changed football by making us train like athletes. In that respect he was ahead of his time and he was a great tactician as well.
“He was also one of the lads – in effect he was the 12th player from the sidelines but he knew how to crack the whip and we respected him.
“He was a great psychologist; he knew how to handle me and how to get more out of me. He did the same for Colin Bell, Francis Lee, Neil Young and all of that great side.”

Malcolm moved to Crystal Palace where a roller coaster 3 years lead to two successive relegations, a totally changed kit that introduced the renown red and blue stripped colours and name change from The Glaziers’ to ‘The Eagles”. But in 1975-76 season Malcolm lead the team to FA Cup semi final appearance taking on Leeds United, Chelsea and Sunderland in an amazing cup run which also introduced Allison’s famous fedora hat and the sweeper system, which was a relatively new idea in football.

Palace defender Jim Cannon said: “Malcolm Allison put Palace on the map. No other man could single-handedly take a club from the First Division to the Third Division and still become an instant hero”

Allisons managerial career faltered until a brief period of success at Sporting Lisbon where he won the League and Cup in 1982 before coaching Middlesborough, stints in Turkey and Kuwait and finally at Bristol Rovers in 1992. Allison suffered from anxiety and depression and after losing much of what he had earned over the years. After the breakdown of his 17 year relationship with Lynn Salton, Allison admitted to his alcoholism saying “I don’t remember the days anymore.”

What would have Allison’s life had been like if he had not fallen so ill after the match against Sheffield United in 1957? Despite the flamboyant and forthright character whose life was played out in the limelight, Malcolm will be remembered for rolled up sleeves and a determination both on and off the pitch that had such a lasting impact at West Ham United.

Malcolm Allison leads West Ham out in a game from 1956 with his trademark shirt sleeves rolled up.

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Through the Lens: Photographs From The Past Part 9: FA Cup Replay Lockout

The current COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique situation that has had an impact on football throughout all levels. And now for top flight football we are seeing the season restart with a fixture schedule set to complete the 9 remaining rounds by the end of July. But in the 70s and 80s we often had a busy March and April fixture programme due to matches postponed from the Winter weather being rescheduled.

There were other reasons in the 70s that we experienced unusual kick off times and fixture dates as power cuts had an impact on home and work life across the country with the introduction of the three day working week. Does anyone remember those times? I remember how we sat for hours at night in candle light not knowing when the electricity would be turned back on.

In the early 70s West Ham United had introduced energy saving measures at the club but one of the biggest impacts was on the FA Cup 4th Round Replay with Hereford United after a 0-0 draw at Edgar Street that set up a Valentines Day replay on Monday 14th February 1974.

West Ham United Match Day Programme

Originally scheduled for an evening encounter, the Government power regulations brought the kick off forward to 2.15pm. The match was a sell out with 42,271 fans inside the ground and reportedly approximately 5,000 fans, many with tickets, turned up but were unable to attend the match and were left to find unique viewing atop buildings surrounding the ground.

There was quite a dispute about the ‘lockout’, particularly from ticket holding Hereford United fans, who accused West Ham of deliberately excluding them from the match. One account is from Jane Thompson, a factory cook who queued for 4 hours to buy her ticket, leaving home before dawn and giving up a days pay to attend the match. The accusation was that West Ham United did not want 15,000 Hereford fans creating an intimidating atmosphere that may swing the game in the Bulls favour.

Hereford United, a Southern League team, entered the FA Cup at the 4th qualifying round and progressed to play West Ham after a 2-1 victory against Newcastle United at Edgar Street on 5th February following a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park. That match had already been delayed due to the weather and the replay had also been postponed 3 times. The game was covered by the BBC and was also a trial for young match day commentator John Motson.

No doubt the many fans who turned up on Monday 14th February we eager for another giant killing performance. In fact, the Cup run has been credited for Hereford United’s promotion to the 4th Division, replacing relegated Barrow. In the following seasons the club rose to the 2nd Division for the 1976-77 season after winning 3rd Division title.

The replay was notable for the last hat trick scored by Sir Geoff Hurst in claret and blue, which he achieved in 31 minutes that ended the match as a competition, with The Bulls managing a consolation goal by their inspirational striker Billy Meadows, who is remembered for his part in the season’s giant killing FA Cup run.

But despite the result, the game had moments that could have seen a different outcome, with Ricky George, the extra time winning goal scorer against Newcastle United, saw his low shot go wide beyond the helpless ‘Bobby’ Ferguson. A goal then after the Hammers had missed a host of chances themselves, could have turned the game in Herefords favour in the first half. As it was, Hurst scored with just about a minute to go before the half time whistle after a wonderful run into the area by Clyde Best who pulled the ball back for Hurst to shoot into an open net and the rest is history.

Hereford United fans manage to find a way to watch the match

This is a terrific photo from the match where you can see the game being played out in front of a packed stadium and the many fans who were unable to get into the ground finding space on the roof tops of the flats that over look the North bank of the ground.

There are some amazing stories of fans who entered the flats, climbed the stairs as the lift struggled with the sheer number of people, to find any space on the roof from which to see the match. This will never be able to happen now and with the final rounds of the season being played to empty stadiums, we can all watch the action live through our tv or computer screens.

You can enjoy the highlights of the match here:


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

In Focus: Pablo Zabaleta

With news that the 2019-20 season is set to resume with our first match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 20th June at 5.30pm in the London Stadium, will these final games be the last we see of Zabaleta in claret and blue shirt? Pablo’s contract is set to end in June and given his age will there be an offer of an extension for another season?

Zabaleta was born on 16th January 1985 in Buenos Aires and raised in Arrecifes. Pablo started out as a defensive midfielder as he progressed through the youth ranks of Club Atletico Lorenzo de Almagro, but eventually settled out on the right side of midfield.

“In Argentina, you have a lot of space to play on the street, or in gardens, or at the park,” Pablo recalls. “We played on any space we could find in our neighbourhood after school. I called on my friends and went to play. It was quite a safe area to live in, but I had to leave when I was scouted aged 10 or so.”

Zabaleta made 66 appearances for San Lorenzo scoring 8 goals before a €3m move to Espanyol in 2005 whilst holding the captains armband for the Argentina U20s team in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, which Argentina won. During the following season Pablo helped Espanyol secure a 4-1 victory in the Copa del Rey final against Real Zaragoza.

Pablo had established himself as first team regular on the right side of defence but was sidelined for 3 months with a shoulder injury during 2007 season, but returned to play in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup Final. Losing to Sevilla on penalties. After 79 appearances scoring 3 goals Zabaleta transferred to Manchester City in summer of 2008 for an undisclosed fee on a 5 year deal, rejecting an offer from Juventus. Pablo said "The offer is impossible to reject and not just because of the money … Juventus also wanted me but I wanted to come to England, and to Manchester.”

Whilst at Manchester City Zabaleta was part of their Premier League winning team in 2011-12 and 2013-14, also winning FA Cup in 2010-11, Football League Cup 2013-14 and 2015-16 and the Community Shield in 2012. Pablo made 333 appearances for Manchester City, scoring 12 goals, one against West Ham United during a 2-1 win on 1st May 2011. Zabaleta has also made 58 appearances for Argentina in his senior career, playing against Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final defeat in Brazil.

Zabaleta joined West Ham on a free transfer on 26th May 2017 being given the No 5 shirt for an initial 2 year contract and reunited him with Manuel Pellegrini in the following season. Pablo is the first Argentinian to reach 300 Premier League games when he played in the 1-0 away defeat against Sheffield United on 10th January of this year.

This season Zabaleta has made 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal against Gillingham in the Hammers 2-0 victory in the FA Cup 3rd round. In May last year Pablo signed an 1 year extension to his contract saying "The reason I am here is because I’m still enjoying my football and, of course, the manager was one of the reasons I chose to extend my contract.”

But Pablo stated last year that this may be his last season in England’s Premier League "This will definitely be my last season in England, for sure. This is something I know, but I don’t know in football, and I don’t think this is the right time to be thinking [about it] when we have a long season ahead.”

Zabaleta has mentioned he may retire from football instead given the current situation where matches will be played behind closed doors. Zabaleta was considering a move to another league, perhaps Italy, as he is expecting to leave West Ham at the end of this season, but has expressed doubts because of the possibility of playing to empty stadiums.

“I had even come to think, at the end of this season, to give myself the joy of playing one more season in another league, perhaps in Italy, but now I don’t know.

“The chances are you won’t play in front of a crowd, so what motivation could I have left? Why go to Italy if mythical stadiums like the Olimpico in Rome or San Siro will be closed?”

Will Zabaleta be in the first team squad for the remainder of the games in what is surely to be a unique end to the season?


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

In Focus: Sebastien Haller

Haller, born on 22nd June 1994, having risen through the ranks at Auxerre made his professional debut on 27th July 2012 in the teams opening league match of the 2012-13 season.

On 24th December 2014, Haller had moved to Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht, initially on loan and then being signed at the end of the season. Haller was voted winner of the Di Tommaso Trophy in 2015 by the supporters – Utrecht’s player of the year award.

By the time Sebastien had signed for Eintracht Frankfurt on 15th may 2017, he had scored 33 goals from 77 appearances, including 15 league goals and 9 assists during the 2018-19 Bundesliga season. Hailed as a goal machine during his time in the Bundesliga, Frankfurt team mate Jonathan de Guzman said after Haller’s point saving contribution against Nuremburg “Bringing in Haller, obviously gives you a bit more strength up front. He can hold the ball, he is big and he showed his quality.”

Haller has been compared to French attacking great David Trezeguet being of similar height and style of play, holding the ball up and setting up teammates if they have a clearer path to goal. Sebastian can score with both feet and is apparently skilled at over head kicks, winning goal of the year in the 2017 season.

Haller then signed for West Ham United on 17th July 2019 for a record fee of £45m on a 5 year deal. Seen as a statement of intent from the club, along with the signings of Anderson, Diop and Fornals. Sebastian definitely came with a great reputation for being a handful and bullying defenders with his physicality. Said to be a highly intelligent player, unselfish and capable of bringing the best of other players around him and also a prolific goalscorer it looked as if Pellegrini was putting together a top six challenging team, certainly some football commentators were suggesting West Ham would be in a battle for European places this season.

After 6 games West Ham stood 5th in the league, above Spurs, Chelsea and Man U and equal on points with Arsenal and only 2 points and 2 places from the top 3. As we know, from the end of September our season imploded and we are left fighting for our Premier League status before the season was put on hold in March this year. At that point, Haller had scored 3 goals, including a brace away to Watford. By the time the season was suspended Haller had scored 7 goals with 1 assist, with 25 shots on target.

Haller said of his move to London Stadium “I thought a lot about European football. I wanted it. But in a career, you have to take everything into account. You have to think holistically. And West Ham was a real opportunity.”

Sebastian also said “The thought of playing in front of 60,000 here was a big attraction, it’s the thing that can push you to give 10 per cent more in every game. As long as the fans are here supporting the team, it’s great.”

But there are reports that Haller has not settled in London and with his son, who was born soon after arriving in London, having health issues that both he and his wife are struggling with its been a difficult time. Previously Haller has been at his best as part of a two or three man striker partnership, whereas at West Ham he is often in an unfamiliar lone striker role. Maybe the pressure of being the clubs record signing and there being no real striker back up if he is injured. This has fuelled rumours that the club are looking to offload the striker, even if his value has dropped, as Moyes evaluates what he needs for next season.

Haller has his critics, but has he become another expensive mistake in the clubs rather chaotic transfer policy? What do we think? Is there any truth to the rumours? Sometimes players take time to settle in the Premier League and of course there is the pressure – has the club done enough to support Haller? Will we see him pull on the claret and blue at the restart of football?


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Through the Lens: Photographs From The Past Part 8: Geoff Hurst Headed Goal 1964 FA Cup Final

The 83rd FA Cup final took place at Wembley Stadium on 2nd May 1964 between West Ham United and Preston North End. The Hammers, captained by Bobby Moore and managed by Ron Greenwood has seen off Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient – although through a replay, Swindon and Burnley in the previous rounds to earn a semi final place against Manchester United at Hillsborough on 14th March of that year. The Hammers first semi final appearance for 31 years.

The Hammers came away 3-1 winners to set up the final with Preston North End, who had beaten Swansea Town in the other semi final at Villa Park. In front of a 65,000 crowd the Hammers were the underdogs playing against the stars of Man United that included George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. Much has been said about the state of the pitch for the game with the headline ‘Boyce is Hero of Cup Mudbath’, but no one can argue with Boyce’s performance and of the Hammers defence against the Division 1 Champions, scoring his only brace for the club.

Ronnie Boyce had put the Hammers 2-0 before Denis Law gave Manchester a life line by scoring against Jim Standen, whom he had collided with earlier. But with West Ham pouring forward, the match was sealed through a Geoff Hurst goal to take them through to the final against Preston North End. Greenwood booked the team a dinning carriage for the return journey on the train to London, but for plenty of Hammers fan to crowd in a join them. Sir Geoff Hurst recalls “My best memory of the successful FA Cup run was beating Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final at Hillsborough.”

But the Hammers, now favourites to win against second Division Preston North End, found themselves behind twice during an exciting match played out in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. 10mins in Preston went ahead after a short passing move between Kendall and Lawton that found Dawson who put in a low cross that Standen fumbled for winger Doug Holden to have an easy shot on goal. It was a deserved lead but lasted just a minute and with the Hammers pressing for an equaliser saw a great one two between Sissons and Budgie Byrne. Sissons collected the pass and fires a shot from inside the Preston penalty area beyond the diving Alan Kelly to make it 1-1.

But Dawson was to gain the advantage for Preston just before the break from a Wilson corner that left both Standen and Brown stranded as Dawson fired in a header to make it 2-1. The second Division side were clearly pushing for a win and we can only imagine what the changing room was like for the West Ham players as Greenwood looked to send them out for the second half for an historic victory.

52 minutes into the match and the Hammers are back on level terms as Bradbrook’s right wing corner for Brown to out jump Dawson and head the ball on to Hurst, whose own looping header hits the crossbar and rebounds off keeper Kelly and rolls in to the net to make it 2-2. This sets up a tense finale to the game where the next goal would settle the game.

On 90 minutes, the match looking as if it will go to extra time, saw the Hammers players pushed for a winner, despite their tired legs. Standen’s goal kick found Hurst in the Preston North End half, taking the ball diagonally Hurst finds Brabrook who sent in an absolutely perfect cross to the far post where Boyce timed his run to meet the ball and head in the winning goal.

Hurst again recalls “Ronnie Boyce, one of our midfielders, who rarely scored, got two in the semi-final and the winner in the Final against Preston North End. I got the equaliser in the Final to make it 2-2, when the ball hit the bar and crept over the line. A rehearsal for what was to happen two years later back at Wembley!”

West Ham’s first FA Cup final win was commemorated with a parade with the streets lined with celebrating fans as an open topped coach carried the players through Plaistow via Balam Street, along Barking Road, up High Street North, then Romford Road before turning into Green Street and on to the Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers were to return to Wembley the following year to play 1860 Munich in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup securing a 2-0 victory.

There are plenty of excellent images form this game but this is also a great image of Hurst scoring the equaliser at Wembley. There must have been several shots of this, but I really like how Geoff’s head is visible beyond the hand of the defenders as he comes back down from rising above everyone. HIs eyes fixed on where the ball is going. Another great composition as you have three bands running across the frame – the stadium at the top packed with fans, the players scattered across the frame and the pitch below that balances well with the stadium. The balls creates that visual dynamic and you just know that it is goal bound without seeing the goal posts. Great shot that captures that split second moment before the crowd cheer and the players celebrate a few seconds later.

You can watch highlights of the match here:


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