Friday, 28 April 2023 | In Focus, Heritage

As we await the imminent visit of West Ham Utd to the Gtech, Geoff Buckingham was lucky enough to catch Bill Dare in an interview about his Dad, the late Brentford and West Ham star, Billy Dare.  
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The imminent visit of West Ham United to the Gtech Community Stadium reminds me that there have been a few players who have ably represented both clubs. Perhaps, since the 1960’s the most notable have been Said Benrahma, Roger Cross and John Dick but going back into the 1950’s there was another  outstanding forward who graced the colours of both clubs with great distinction. Billy Dare. And he was unique in several ways.

Unlike most centre-forwards of his time, he was short in stature at around 5ft 5 inches. However, he certainly made up for it, being described as “A gutsy and stocky little battler”. He scored 68 goals in 222 appearances for The Bees, and was top scorer in 1951/1952 with 16. And for West Ham he scored 52 in total, in 125 appearances. including top scoring with 25 in 1955-1956, and being part of the promotion winning forward line of 1957/1958 that scored over 100 goals whilst clinching the Second Division title.

Remarkable figures for a player who played across the front five and was often a winger.

After serving in the Forces as a PT Instructor, where he was able to hone his football skills, Billy joined Hendon, a top amateur side in the 1940’s, and quickly made his mark, with eight goals in just ten appearances.

He was then signed up by Harry Curtis for the Bees in 1948.  The club had recently fallen out of the old First Division, just after football’s resumption following the end of World War Two. Attendances at Griffin Park still averaged over 22,000, rising to over 38,000 on one occasion. Billy made his Brentford debut, in the old Second Division, on 12th March 1949 against Luton Town.  He soon became a crowd favourite, showing his scoring prowess by grabbing four goals in a handful of games before the season ended.  His professional career then really took off and, in 1950, he was selected, along with Brentford goalkeeper Alf Jefferies, to represent a London select team versus a Belgium representative team at The Heysel stadium.

His colleagues in his early Brentford days included Irish International and Brentford star of the 1930’s, Bill Gorman, Ken Coote, who went on to break the Brentford appearance record, future England and West Ham Manager Ron Greenwood, future England star Peter Broadbent, legendary former England centre-forward Tommy Lawton and future Fulham star and TV pundit Jimmy Hill. In fact, his colleagues included some who starred for the club from the mid 1930’s, to some who were mainstays into the 1960’s!

January 1952. Billy Dare thumps Brentford into the lead against Leicester City in front of a packed Griffin Park.
The Bees No 11 is former Celtic and Chelsea left winger Johnny Paton, and the Bees No 2 is right back Ken Horne, who represented Brentford in 223 games”


Although most of Billy’s Brentford career involved scoring or creating goals, he is one of the few outfield Bees players to have actually played in goal for the club. On Easter Monday 1951, he took over between the sticks from injured Brentford goalkeeper Alf Jefferies, against Sheffield United-despite, at just 5 feet 5 inches, being the shortest player in the team!

He was so highly rated in his heyday that West Ham signed him from Brentford in 1954, for a fee reputed to be £10,000 (a rather hefty sum in those days), and the transfer was so noteworthy that Billy was the first ever football signing to be filmed live on BBC television!

The money was much needed by Brentford at that time, and he soon proved an astute acquisition for ‘The Hammers’, playing a major role in their climb out of the old Second Division.



Jimmy Hill rescued me when I climbed up the chimney!
Here’s Bill Dare at Walton Walking Football , having demonstrated some of his late Father’s football skills

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to the late Billy Dare’s son, Bill, who lives in the area and was able to share lots of photos and anecdotes about his father. He recalls that during his Dad’s Brentford days his family lived in a club ground floor maisonette in Whitton. The aforementioned Jimmy Hill lived in the upper maisonette and often baby sat young Bill, once even rescuing him when he somehow managed to climb up the chimney!

Bill recalls his dad particularly had a very high regard for his Brentford colleagues Ken Coote and Tommy Lawton, and also Billy Sperrin, who later taught young Bill at school.

Around the time that Billy had established himself as a formidable forward in West London, big things were happening on the other side of London too. The West Ham boss Ted Fenton, and some of his senior players, impressed with watching the legendary Hungarian side who thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley, in 1953, decided to meet up regularly, as ‘An Academy of Principles’, to assess how to improve, and develop strategy, tactics and coaching. They sowed the seeds of the rise of their club, which eventually led to the development of players such as England World Cup-winning trio, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

So, when Billy joined The Hammers, his new team mates were a host of men who also devoutly studied coaching and who went on to have distinguished careers in football management, namely John Bond, Dave Sexton, Frank O’Farrell, Ken Brown, Noel Cantwell and the larger than life character, Malcolm Allison.  Bill recollects his dad telling him that Allison, who was a renowned playboy, would often break a curfew when staying in hotels on away trips, and once asked Billy to let him in through the window!

Billy himself also studied for his coaching qualifications. He had a spell as Manager of Ruislip Manor after retiring as a professional player, in the early 1960’s. However, he was later tempted back into playing Sunday League football when into his 40’s, and even played in the same team as young Bill!

Bill recounts his dad telling him about his 1955 West Ham debut, which was at Upton Park versus Leeds United. “Marking him was the giant Leeds centre-half, the great Welsh International, John Charles. Billy was winning nothing in the air against his considerably taller opponent. In those days, before playing it out from the back became more common, goalkeepers almost always ‘ kicked it long’ . So Dad was amazed when he finally won a header, flicking it on to the winger. He remembered thinking ‘I have just beaten John Charles in the air!’ Only to find, as he landed and turned around, John Charles was bending down tying his bootlaces!”

In Billy’s latter days at Upton Park, a young apprentice was given the task of cleaning Billy’s boots. It was a lad who would go on to have a decent career. His name was …Bobby Moore!

In his later career, Billy played for Yiewsley (later known as Hillingdon Borough) and also turned out for select teams, in testimonial matches etc. He once played against Brentford at Griffin Park for a Select Eleven that also included one of the then World’s greatest players, Stanley Matthews, on the wing.

Off the pitch, Billy was renowned as a very good singer. His son Bill has clearly inherited his late father’s football and vocal talents. He performs professionally for his duo ‘The Ukaye Ukes’ and, even though in his early seventies, he plays Walking Football to a high standard, locally, at Walton Walking Football. Well worth following!

I never personally had the privilege of watching Billy Dare, but I do remember older Brentford supporters eulogising about how good and how popular he was. Older West Ham fans told me likewise. We thank his son Bill for these great reminiscences, and for sharing some of his rare photos, which we hope you enjoy!

Up The Bees!