When Ted Fenton was appointed deputy manager the plan was for him to succeed Charlie Paynter and provide the continuity the board was seeking.
Yet, in a remarkable twist of fate, Fenton was to preside over an unforeseen revolution that became known simply as “the West Ham Way”. Fenton, brought up in Forest Gate as one of eight children, was a Hammer through and through. His father, a policeman, took him to games at Upton Park as a boy.
After leaving school he was persuaded by Paynter to sign apprentice forms as a 17-year-old. He stayed at the club for 14 years, with time off for military service in the Army.
After hanging up his boots, Fenton went into management and spent two successful years at Colchester. Paynter persuaded him to return to the Boleyn Ground as his number two, and a couple of years later Fenton got the top job.
Fenton was no great innovator himself, but he was prepared to let a young group of players adopt the tactics they had seen used by continental clubs.
West Ham, previously considered to be ‘old-fashioned’ by observers of the game, began to experiment with a different, more skillful, way of playing.
What made it easier for Fenton to go along with this footballing rebellion was that it brought results, and in 1958 West Ham won the Second Division championship – finally putting an end to 26 years outside the top flight.
Behind the scenes, some of the players who had brought about the transformation had little time for Fenton.
New captain Malcolm Allison, in particular, saw himself as the driving force at the club and actually took over training. He also organised regular masterclasses at the nearby Cassatarri café, where his young tyros would talk endlessly about the game, discussing everything from tactical innovation to the new-style boots being worn by cutting-edge European footballers.
His disciples were like-minded teammates who would later go on to form a Who’s Who of successful club managers: John Bond, Ken Brown, Noel Cantwell, Frank O’Farrell, Dave Sexton, and plenty more besides.
Rather than regarding Allison’s influence as something to be feared, Fenton actually encouraged his players to get their FA coaching badges.
He also set up the Academy to develop emerging talent and, with the invaluable help of Wally St Pier, instigated a new scouting programme. It says much for his ability to spot young talent that seven of the 1964 FA Cup winning team were either signed by him or products of his Academy.
Fenton’s subtle skill was to allow Allison and the revolutionary guard their head without it ever becoming a full-blown coup.