Forest Gate, Essex born centre forward Vivian “V.W.T” Gibbins was a celebrated amateur footballer who began his football career with Clapton in 1919, helping them to win the Isthmian League title in 1922-23. His performances attracted the attention of First Division club West Ham United, who signed him on amateur forms in December 1923, his Football League debut coming at Nottingham Forest the same month. His amateur status allowed him to also continue to play for Clapton, with whom he won the FA Amateur Cup in both 1924 and 1925. His appearances for West Ham United were occasional until the end of the 1925-26 season. His pen picture in the 1925-26 West Ham club handbook gives some idea of the esteem in which he was held at The Boleyn Ground: “The name of Gibbins is a household word in London football and it is out great regret that he cannot assist us regularly, for we would always find a place for him.”
From September 1926 he was a regular in the team for five seasons, top scoring for West Ham in 1930-31 with 19 goals in the campaign including a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Manchester United in October 1930. This was his third hat-trick for West Ham United, having achieved the feat first in a 5-2 victory over League Champions Newcastle United in December 1927, and again in a 4-0 win at Everton in April 1929. He became the first unpaid West Ham player to top the club’s scoring charts.
He was first capped by England against France in Paris in May 1924, Gibbins scoring twice in a 3-1 victory. He was then capped a year later against the same opponents exactly a year later, England again winning 3-1 in Paris, Gibbins scoring England’s opening goal, the match would prove his final full international cap. Having played for The Amateurs in their 1924 FA Charity Shield defeat to The Professionals at Highbury in October 1924, Gibbins was first selected for the England Amateur team in a match against South Africa at The Dell, Southampton, five days later. This was the first of twelve Amateur international caps he won through to March 1932, his final cap coming in a defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park. He scored 7 times for England Amateurs.
After playing his last game for West Ham United in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland in December 1931, having scored 63 goals in 138 appearances for The Hammers, he briefly played again for Clapton before joining Third Division (South) club Brentford in February 1932, where he scored 4 goals in 8 appearances before the end of the season.
He then joined Bristol Rovers in June 1932 and missed only five matches in their 1932-33 campaign, Gibbins was The Pirates’ top goalscorer with 15 goals in 42 appearances including two hat-tricks against Brighton and at Clapton Orient, both in October 1932. But he only stayed a season at Eastville before joining Southampton in August 1933, for whom he made his final two senior appearances in Second Division matches in November 1933, before he joined non league Leyton in 1934. Later the same year he began playing for Catford Wanderers and eventually retired from playing in 1939.
The entrance to the Old Spotted Dog Ground at Disraeli Road, Newham, Clapton’s ground since 1887, is called the Vivian Gibbins Memorial Gate.