Formed in 1895 as the Thames Ironworks FC, West Ham United is one of London’s most historic and famous football clubs.
In the early 20th Century the club relocated to the Boleyn Ground where it has played its football ever since, proving one of the oldest stadiums in the country. It is most often referred to as Upton Park due to its location.
The famed rivalry between West Ham and Millwall began as both were formed from two rival Ironworks companies, and featured as West Ham’s debut at its new ground, drawing a huge crowd which witnessed the side clad in claret and blue claiming a 3-0 victory. It was a win in which the Daily Mirror described at the time as…”West Ham United beginning their season most auspiciously yesterday evening; when they beat Millwall by 3 goals to 0 on their new enclosure at Upton Park.”
And it was in the next few decades that West Ham enjoyed some of its most successful periods, starting with an appearance in the first ever FA Cup Final to be held at Wembley against Bolton Wanderers. The Hammers are also one of just eight clubs in existence to have never played outside of England’s top two divisions, culminating in the clubs highest ever league position of 3rd during the 1985/86 campaign.
West Ham is famed for its youth development, and it’s aptly named ‘Academy of Football’. Under the management of Ron Greenwood, the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were produced, proving major players at Upton Park as well as pivotal figures in England’s World Cup wining triumph in 1966.
Players such as Frank Lampard Sr. and Sir Trevor Brooking soon followed as the Hammers became a major force in Europe, winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965, as well as FA Cups three times between 1964 and 1980. The most famous cup success was in 1975 when the side that played was comprised solely of English players, which was never to be repeated and will almost defiantly stand as a record for many centuries to come.
More recently, under the stewardship of Tony Carr a new array of talent has emerged, with seven ex-Hammers youth players making the England World Cup squad of 2010, which included Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, Defoe, Carrick, Ferdinand and Glen Johnson. Other notable players who learnt their trade at the club include Paul Ince, Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley, Tony Cottee, and even Sol Campbell, who played some part of his youth football at The Academy of Football.
This same famed reliance on such a prolific youth academy has carried through to recent years, and the current squad is made up of four youth graduates – including vice captain James Tompkins.
And it is with the help of these young stars that The Hammers have made a seamless return to the Premier League under the stewardship of Sam Allardyce, proving yet again their top flight pedigree.
Allardyce took over at Upton Park following The Hammers relegation in 2011, following a last day defeat to Wigan Athletic. His footballing philosophy upset the purists at Upton Park, but it would prove a major coup to convince Allardyce to manage in the second tier, following successful Premier League spells with Blackburn and Bolton. And a strong Championship campaign twinned with the play-off final victory against Blackpool saw West Ham return to the top flight of English football at the first time of asking, thanks to a last minute Ricardo Vaz Te winner at Wembley.
Summer signings of the ilk of Andy Carroll on loan, Malian forward Modibo Maïga and the return of George McCartney have seen West Ham rise to 11th in the table at the turn of the year, and are comfortably ahead of Southampton and Reading; both sides gained promotion alongside the Hammers but sit in the relegation zone.
Allardyce has moved fast to sign Joe Cole this January, who returned to his first club to mark a man of the match performance in the 2-2 draw against Manchester United. And if recent form is anything to go by, it looks like the famous claret and blue of West Ham United will be gracing the Premier League for many years to come.