West Ham were in the second division of the Football League when Charlie Paynter took over in 1932.
They were still there when he retired 18 years later – yet he was given a send-off befitting an all-conquering hero. What’s more, he was afforded the almost unheard of opportunity to appoint his own successor.
For followers of the modern game, with its constant pursuit of ‘the next level’, his triumphant departure is little short of astonishing.
Paynter joined the club in its inaugural season, but never got the chance to represent the first team before his playing career was cut short by injury.
He moved on to the coaching staff, initially training the second team and then the first XI when Syd King was promoted to manager in 1902.
He remained King’s understudy for the next 30 years – gradually gaining a reputation as a top coach.
Such was the respect in which he was held by the football establishment he was asked to train the England team in preparation for the national side’s first game at Wembley in 1924.
Charlie Paynter, the man who so many of the players regarded as a father figure, was finally given his chance following King’s sacking.
Under Paynter, results began to improve. Resources were limited, and there was little money for expensive transfers.
But he knew how to get the best out of the players at his disposal. He made a point of going on to the pitch after a game and slapping every member of his team on the back.
They took it as a sign of their manager’s approval: what he was really doing was checking to see that they had put in the effort to work up a decent sweat during the match. Woe betide those that hadn’t!
Away from the pitch, Paynter assumed King’s former role as the public face of West Ham.
If anything, he did it better – with none of the controversy that had surrounded his hard-drinking predecessor.
Dignified, resolute and highly respected: Paynter was a popular man with fans and journalists alike.
When he decided to retire he was asked by the board to nominate the man who should follow him – and he was awarded a testimonial.
Arsenal, the undisputed aristocrats of English football back then, were the opponents.
The dignitaries who honoured him with their presence included Sir Stanley Rous, secretary of the FA at that time, and the man who would, 16 years later as president of FIFA, stand at the Queen’s side as she presented the world cup to Bobby Moore.
It was an incredible demonstration of respect for a man whose only tangible triumph was victory in the little known Football League War Cup in 1940.