Born in Barking, left half Tommy Randall began his football career with Barking in the South Essex League. He joined West Ham United as an amateur inside forward in 1906 and he scored on his Southern League debut in a 4-1 win over Champions elect Fulham at Upton Park in April 1907. And yet initially the West Ham fans disliked his thoughtful, slow approach to the game, calling him “Old Mother Randall” and almost drove him out of football with their barracking.
Then at Charlie Paynter’s benefit against Woolwich Arsenal in November 1908, the Hammers’ trainer persuaded a disillusioned Randall to turn out at half back. At the end of February 1909 he broke into the first team and never looked back.He was such a success in his new role that he was signed on as a full professional for the princely sum of 30 shillings a week, becoming a fixture in the Southern League side at left half.
Described as “thoroughly sound and reliable”, he became a stalwart over the next five seasons and West Ham’s club captain when he took over from Frank Piercy as captain of West Ham United at the beginning of the 1911-12 season, being a member of West Ham’s giant killing team of 1911 that knocked out Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, and most notably Manchester United who they beat 2-1 in the Third Round before losing 3-2 at home to Blackburn Rovers in the quarter finals. He also played as The Hammers beat First Division West Bromwich Albion, losing Finalists the previous season, 3-0 in a First Round second replay at Stamford Bridge in January 1913.
The high esteem in which he was held was summarised by two publications of the time. He was the subject of “Character Photograph”, featuring five images of Randall, published c.1914, which describes him as “one of the most popular players West Ham ever had… recognised as one of the cleverest men in the service of a Southern League club”. High praise indeed!! It continues “A little bit thin on top, as the saying goes… he is quite a young man, and on the field of play he uses his head in the [xxxx – illegible] sense.” The Favourites of Football, also published c.1914. featured a caricature of him and wrote a delightful ditty to Randall:
“A Hammer’s No Use
The Hammers Can’t Do
He Joined Them You Know
About 8 Years Ago
To Such Record None
Can Hold A Candle”
He was also honoured not only by representing The Southern League in their Inter League matches against The Football League, The Scottish and The Irish Leagues, but being The Southern League’s captain in four of his five representative matches in 1912 and 1913. He was also selected for The Football Association. Randall scored 10 goals in 205 appearances for West Ham United before losing his place to Jack Tresadern in the final season before the First World War, which itself forced an end to his career.
NB in the photograph he features in a team group in a shirt that doesn’t look like a West Ham jersey, but could be there second colours. It’s also possible that this is from his appearance for The Football Association or perhaps for the London F.A., whom he is likely to have represented.