West Ham United
Of all the football clubs in London, West Ham is unquestionably the “Cockney club”. It is the club of the East End and the areas of London spreading east along the River Thames and the Estuary. The Club was started in 1895 as a recreational activity by London’s last firm of shipbuilders and took the company’s name as Thames Ironworks Football Club and the association with London’s dockland has continued ever since. With the eventual ending of the company interest, the club became West Ham United in 1900 and moved to the Boleyn Ground, now known as Upton Park.
West Ham participated in the first Cup Final in 1923 to be held at the then new Empire Stadium at Wembley. Chaotic stewarding led to 200,000 people flooding on to the ground to be pushed back by a legendary policeman on a supposed white horse (which was actually grey).
The Club’s biggest period of success occurred in the 1960s with the participation of three of the big names from the England team that won the 1966 World Cup – Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. The FA Cup final win over Preston North End was followed by the European Cup Winners Cup and then the World Cup final itself where Hurst and Peters scored the goals between them and Moore showed exemplary leadership qualities.
West Ham successes have been limited compared to the other big London clubs – FA Cup victories over Fulham (1975) with Bobby Moore playing on the losing side and then a memorable 1-0 win over Arsenal in 1980 with a rare headed goal by Trevor Brooking. They took Liverpool to a League Cup replay in 1981 and were close to defeating the same team in 2006 when a last minute error allowed Liverpool to equalize – they then won the penalty shootout. However the team has never been out of the top two tiers of English football and has been known as the Academy of Football, with a reputation for producing stars of English football who went on to ply their trade with other clubs – such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick to name but a few.
Currently the Club is poised at one of the most exciting periods in its history. The forthcoming 2015-16 season, under new manager Slaven Bilic a former popular West Ham player, will be the last at Upton Park, long regarded by neutral observers as one of the most atmospheric grounds in the country especially under the floodlights and in a year’s time the Club will move to the specially adapted Olympic Stadium up the road in Stratford and well served by public transport.
Among the players who will feature in the West Ham team are forwards Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, midfielders Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyaté and a defence led by Winston Reid. Several attractive new players have just been added to the books. There could hardly be a better time to watch a match at a ground with so many memories.
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