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The story of Billie the grey

Filed: Thursday, 28th April 2011
By: Staff Writer

88 years ago today West Ham faced Bolton in the first ever FA Cup Final staged at the new Wembley Stadium.

Delayed for over 40 minutes due to the massive crowds estimated to be in excess of 200,000 (the stadium had a capacity of 127,000) - and by a compulsory, rousing and heartfelt 'three cheers' for the attending King George V - the game was eventually - and controversially - won by Wanderers courtesy of goals from David Jack and Jack Smith.

Jack gave the Trotters an early lead amidst farcical scenes; West Ham half-back Jack Tresadern became entangled in the crowd, pushed right up against the touchline after taking a throw-in and Bolton profited from the resulting space; Jack's shot was hit so hard that it rendered a supporter, standing behind the net, unconscious upon impact.

More farce followed on the quarter-hour mark as a crowd surge behind one end led to another charge from the mounted police in order to clear the playing area. After the Red Cross had attended to a number of injured fans, play resumed; Dick Richards' shot was cleared off the line as Bolton clung on to their slender advantage.

The crowd problems - and obvious threat to public safety - forced West Ham captain George Kay, ironically a former Bolton player, to request an abandonment of the game; a request Kay persisted with throughout the match, to no avail. Half-time followed - and went after just five minutes, as the players were forced to take refreshment on the pitch as the heaving crowds rendered access the the changing rooms impossible.

Vic Watson - United's biggest attacking threat on the day who remains, to this day, the club's greatest goalscorer of all time - failed to take advantage of any half-chances afforded him which proved to be the Irons' ultimate undoing. The game was won after Wanderers added a controversial second as referee David Asson adjudged a Smith shot to have carried over the line.

West Ham protested bitterly; initially the ball had been kept from leaving the field of play by a spectator on the touchline to Bolton's advantage before hitting the post and bouncing clear of goal, according to them. Asson insisted that the ball had instead crossed the goal-line and rebounded off a spectator, much to the Irons' annoyance.

Charlie Paynter, West Ham's manager was left to rue the impact police horses had had on the pitch: "It was that white horse thumping its big feet into the pitch that made it hopeless. Our wingers were tumbling all over the place, tripping up in great ruts and holes," he reflected.

Despite going home as the losing team, West Ham United's part in football history was cemented by the appearance of the aforementioned and now-legendary mounted 'white horse' that appeared amongst the vast throngs in order to disperse the crowds.

However a little known fact is that the horse - Billy* - was actually grey, and only appeared white due to the quality of the film used to record the event.

Billy's mount, PC George Scorey of the Metropolitan Police later recalled how his job on the day was made easier by the massive crowd's 'good nature'.

Sadly our equine friend passed away just seven years after the match with which he will forever be remembered; former partner Scorey was subsequently presented with one of Billy's hooves, mounted, in memory of his former companion.

Meanwhile, West Ham had to wait another 42 years before finally getting their hands on the FA Cup...

* source: http://www.met.police.uk/history/billy.htm

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by dangermouse
08:29AM 2nd May 2011
''So nothing's changed!''

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