Idle Thoughts: The No. 7 Shirt

West Ham Opinion

Watching the game last Monday evening, I found myself thinking back to one of my favourite players of the 1960s, Alan Sealey.

Sealey came to West Ham from Leyton Orient in March, 1961, in an exchange deal which involved Dave Dunmore going the other way. At the time, it seemed a strange arrangement. Dunmore was an experienced centre-forward who scored 16 goals in 36 appearances for the Hammers. At one point in that 1960/61 season, he had scored in seven successive matches, the highlight of that run being a hat-trick in a 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal on Guy Fawkes Day.  Sealey, on the other hand, was a promising but as yet untried centre-forward who had only recently made his debut for the Orient, scoring just the once in four games.

What made the transfer particularly unusual was that the Hammers were in a sort of ‘managerial limbo’ at the time, Ted Fenton on his way out and Ron Greenwood on his way in. Whoever it was in the Hammers’ camp who made that transfer happen was certainly to be congratulated. Although making many appearances for West Ham wearing the No. 9 shirt, the high point of Alan Sealey’s career came with No. 7 on his back, on that never-to-be-forgotten night when Bobby Moore lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Wembley in 1965 and Sealey was the scorer of the Hammers’ two goals.

It was Michail Antonio’s performance the other night that had me thinking back to Alan Sealey, as he played the ball down the line, haring after it and leaving his full-back trailing in his wake. A simple but extremely effective move that Alan Sealey employed on the Hammers’ right wing all those years ago and which Michail Antonio will, hopefully, put to more good use in the coming season.

All that’s missing is the shirt number. Somehow the No. 30 doesn’t have the same aura as No.7 and it certainly doesn’t have the same history. As a youngster, I remember Bobby Moore being given the run-around by perhaps the greatest of English football’s No.7s, Stanley Matthews, whilst another proud wearer of No.7 in that era was Tom Finney.

And, apart from Alan Sealey, the Hammers have had many other notable wearers of No.7. Another two-goal man was the 1975 F. A. Cup Final hero, Alan Taylor, scorer of the two goals which knocked out Arsenal in the 6th round, two more in the Semi-Final against Ipswich and, by way of an encore, two more in the Final against Bobby Moore’s Fulham.

When West Ham met Anderlecht in the following year’s European Cup Winners’ Cup Final, two of the Belgian goals were scored by their right-winger, Francois Van der Elst, who subsequently exchanged the Anderlecht No.7 shirt for that of the Hammers.

Tommy Yews, Stan Foxall, Peter Brabrook, Harry Redknapp, Pat Holland, Paul Allen, Jimmy Neighbour, Ian Bishop and many others have worn that shirt over the years. Today, it belongs to Marko Arnautovic who, let us hope, will soon add his own little bit of magic to the history of the Hammers’ No.7 shirt.