West Ham lost the services of four of their best players at the end of the 1901-1902: Roderick McEachrane (Arsenal), Charles Craig (Nottingham Forest), William Jones (Aberdare) and Hugh Mounteith (Bury).
However, the decision by the Football League to introduce a maximum wage of £4 per week, helped clubs in the Southern League like West Ham. According to John Harding (For the Good of the Game: The Official History of the Professional Footballers' Association) "Southern League clubs began enticing Football League stars to defect with promises of up to £100 signing-on fees plus £4-£5 a week all the year round."
The season started with two draws against Reading and Queens Park Rangers. The next game was a 5-1 hammering from Wellingborough Town. Goals by Billy Grassam and William Barnes gave West Ham three victories out of the next four games.
Although Grassam continued to score on a regular basis, the Irons had difficulty getting too many wins. The home defeat against Millwall in front of 10,000 spectators was especially painful. West Ham was also knocked out of the FA Cup in the first round by Lincoln City.
West Ham finished the season in 10th place, 20 points behind the champions, Southampton. This was disappointing after the previous season's 4th place. The team scored seven less goals but the real problem was in defence with an increase of 21 goals in the against column.
That season West Ham lost another defender. Syd King, who was considered the best full-back in the division, suffered two very bad injuries while playing for the Hammers and after playing Kettering on 15th April, 1903, decided to retire from the game.